After a very strong sophomore campaign, Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm made a bold proclamation to assembled media days after Anaheim’s season ended.
“I want to be the best defenseman in the league,” Lindholm said. “If you don’t have that as a goal, why are you playing? I want to be the best every night. I want to be the best [defenseman] on this team.”
If last season was any indication, Lindholm is well on his way to fulfilling that promise. He set career highs in several categories last season – goals (7), assists (27) and points (34) – while finishing among team leaders in time on ice.
Lindholm posted an incredible plus-25 rating in 78 regular season games. In just two seasons, the 21-year-old defenseman has a plus-54 rating, leading all NHL defensemen and ranking fourth overall in the league. No other defenseman in the top five is under the age of 27.
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau placed more responsibility on the young Swede’s shoulders with encouraging results. Lindholm increased his time on ice per game by over two minutes and found himself on the ice for more defensive and neutral zone faceoffs at even strength. His time on the penalty kill jumped from 24 seconds per game in 2013-14 to 1:57 per game last season.
Lindholm continued this progression in the postseason, finishing second among all blueliners in time on ice (23:15) while collecting 10 points and a plus-2 rating.
To take the next step forward, Lindholm will have to cope without his longtime defensive partner, Francois Beauchemin. In his two seasons in Anaheim, the duo was never apart for long. No matter the situation, Boudreau stayed away from separating the two. They became the team’s most consist defensive pairing.
Both players rewarded Boudreau with solid defensive play. Together, Lindholm and Beauchemin posted Corsi-for percentages (blocked and unblocked shots attempted) above 51 percent while accounting for almost 60 percent of all goals scored at even strength last season. This isn’t a small sample size, either – the two played over 900 minutes together in these situations.
Diving deeper shows an interesting point – Beauchemin’s numbers dropped drastically without Lindholm. He posted sub-50 percent Corsi-for and goals-for percentages while also noticing an uptick in opponents shots against.
Lindholm was, arguably, the driving force behind the duo’s success. In just two years, he’s become an extremely reliable top-four defenseman teetering on the brink of a top-pairing player. His individual production is through the charts while he continues to improve other aspects of his game.
That includes his offseason work. In his end-of-the-year interview, Lindholm said he’d take the summer to “prepare myself to be in the shape I can be in and come into camp as good as I can be.”
As seen in an Instagram post from earlier in the summer, the young defenseman is already working to fill out his 6-3, 205-lb frame.
He once again enters training camp with high hopes. On a blueline teeming with talent, Lindholm continues to separate himself from the pack. It’s time to see if he can make the leap from great to incredible.
As Lindholm once said, he’s not in Anaheim for the beach – he’s here to be one of the best.
Lindholm showed he’s no stranger to the big stage with his performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against Chicago. Under siege in the opening moments, Lindholm provided the ultimate momentum swing at the 8:48 mark of the first period.
Jakob Silfverberg took a pass from Matt Beleskey at Chicago’s blueline, quickly striding toward the left circle. He hit the brakes and turned away from Duncan Keith, firing a pass to Lindholm at the point. The Ducks defenseman wasted no time, firing a one-timer that sailed past Corey Crawford.
Not satisfied with the goal, he added an assist on Nate Thompson’s third-period goal. It was Lindholm’s second multi-point effort of the playoffs.