With a bevy of trade rumors swirling around the Carolina Hurricanes’ fifth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, the team opted to stand pat to draft Swedish forward Elias Lindholm.
Lindholm, 18, was Central Scouting’s third-ranked European skater and a player that the Canes had targeted for awhile, according to team President and General Manager Jim Rutherford. A native of Gavle, Sweden, Lindholm attracted attention with a stellar season in a high-level professional league as a teenager.
“This is a player who will have a chance to play with us next year,” Rutherford said. “He’s already played with men in the Swedish Elite League. He’s a guy that does everything at a high tempo. He plays every shift at a high tempo, and he’s one of those guys that’s on the puck and does the little things that you’re looking for.”
A self-described strong two-way center, Lindholm was developed within the Brynas system and made his Swedish Elite League (now the Swedish Hockey League) debut as a 17-year-old, skating in 12 regular-season games and two playoff matches for the men’s team. In the same season on Brynas’ under-20 squad, Lindholm notched 49 points (14g, 35a) in 36 games.
In 2012-13, Lindholm made the full-time jump to the men’s league. In 48 games, he paced SEL juniors with 30 points (11g, 19a) and was only one of two Brynas skaters who finished the season with a plus rating. He ranked fourth among SHL junior players, second among SHL junior forwards and sixth among Brynas forwards in average ice time per game with 16:17. In four playoff games, Lindholm’s average ice time jumped to 18:36, ranking fifth on Brynas. He finished the season as an SEL rookie of the year finalist.
“It’s pretty tough going into the men’s league,” Lindholm said. “They’re bigger, tougher and stronger. It’s more defensive and harder to get scoring chances in the zone.”
Lindholm said that as a younger player, he was more focused on skill. That changed as he matured as a hockey player.
“I think that’s part of the game, to be as solid all-around as possible,” he said. “I watched a lot of Peter Forsberg, and now when you play hockey, you have to be [an] all-around [player].”
Lindholm, 6-feet and 181 pounds, isn’t afraid to play a physical brand of hockey, either.
“He’s got some grit,” Rutherford said. “He’s on the puck, and he likes to muck for it.”
That’s one of the many aspects of Lindholm that attracted Robert Kron, who did a large majority of the scouting legwork, and the Hurricanes. Another? His affectionate personality and will to compete, both of which emerged in the team’s interview with him.
“He’s got a great personality. He’s very positive all the time, and he’s got a little bit of humor,” Rutherford said. “He’s a guy that has the character and leadership that we like to have.”
Asked what he knew about the Carolina organization, Lindholm said he played enough video games to be familiar with much of the roster. He also talked with fellow Swedes and team prospects Victor Rask and Erik Karlsson.
One day, the three could play alongside one another.
“Certainly Rask is getting closer. He’s going to turn pro this year, and his development has been very good,” Rutherford said. “I guess at some point in time that would be a possibility.”
For the 2013-14 season, Lindholm has two options: he could make the Hurricanes roster or, with one season remaining on his contract, he could play with Brynas in the SHL.
Asked if he would play in the NHL next year, Lindholm smiled and said, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
As far as trading down from fifth overall was concerned, Rutherford said the team never had an offer that was appealing. His best option, he said, was to trade down farther than desired and acquire a good, NHL forward. If he were to have made a trade, he wanted to drop only a few spots and acquire a top-four defenseman.
That never presented itself, and the team got a player it coveted.
“We’re pretty happy to get him,” Rutherford said.