As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we have been featuring a different Ducks player throughout the summer, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight from last season and an outlook for 2016-17.
By Adam Brady
It was just a little over a year ago, coming off an outstanding sophomore season and postseason, when a the normally soft-spoken Hampus Lindholm displayed a bit of bravado.
Speaking to the media just days after Anaheim’s season ended in the Western Conference Final, the then 21-year-old Swede was asked about his goals for the coming year.
"I want to be the best defenseman in the league," he said assuredly. "If you don’t have that as a goal, I don’t know why you’re playing. I want to be the best one every night, I want to be the best one on this team, and that’s what I’m working for."
Lindholm had reason for the lofty goals, having established himself as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL after the Ducks took him sixth overall in the 2012 Draft. He posted a gaudy plus-54 rating over his first two seasons, good enough for second in the entire NHL and tops among defensemen.
Lindholm’s numbers this past season weren’t quite as striking in that regard, though he did establish career highs with 10 goals and 149 shots while spending more time on the power play than he had previously. In his own end, he led the Ducks with a career-high 115 blocked shots. And without getting too deep into advanced stats, Lindholm’s possession numbers – along with those who skated with him in 5-on-5 situations – were again outstanding.
But it’s been said before and it bears repeating that the true worth of a player like Lindholm is not typically measured in numbers. The impressiveness comes in watching him play, how he rarely makes mistakes, how he moves the puck up ice, how he skates with it and how he snuffs out potential opposing scoring changes time and time again.
Lindholm found himself in an unfamiliar position with under a minute to go in Anaheim’s battle with Ottawa on March 26 at Canadian Tire Centre. The Ducks trailed by a goal and emptied their net for an extra attacker, and Lindholm battled in front with his back to the Ottawa goal as Anaheim desperately looked for the equalizer.
They got it when Corey Perry’s shot pinballed just outside the crease, and Lindholm pounced on it, using his quick hands to backhand the puck home. That tied the game 3-3 with 57.2 seconds left, and Lindholm’s good buddy and fellow Swede Rickard Rakell won it 2:38 into overtime.
Contract negotiations are ongoing, but all signs point to the Ducks making every effort to sign Lindholm to a deal that will proffer the 22-year-old a significant pay raise going forward. He remains a cornerstone of an Anaheim corps of young defensemen that has developed into one of the best in the league, and a case could be made for him being the Ducks’ best blueliner.
NHL defensemen don’t typically hit their primes until their mid-20s, so prevailing wisdom has Lindholm only getting better and fulfilling lofty expectations placed on him by the Ducks organization, its fans and of course Lindholm himself.