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Rutherford: 'shocked' if Lindholm doesn't start season

by Connor Mellas

The Carolina Hurricanes on Monday signed their top 2013 NHL Draft pick, 18-year-old forward Elias Lindholm, to a three-year, entry-level contract during a news conference to introduce him to the local media.

Along with the deal come high hopes for the 6-foot, 181-pound forward taken by the Hurricanes with the fifth pick of the draft.

"The opportunity is there for him to start with the Hurricanes," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said. "I will be shocked if he doesn't based on all of the reports we have and what I've seen."

Lindholm was the youngest player on Brynas in the Swedish Hockey League last season, but had 11 goals and 19 assists in 48 games. A skilled two-way center, Lindholm was No. 3 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters for this year's draft.

The forward also played for Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, where his two goals and two assists helped the team claim the silver medal.

"The advantage he has is that he's already played with men," Rutherford said. "His development is way ahead from a skills point of view and from a physical point of view. But the biggest thing that I see is he plays the game at a high tempo, and to come in to the National Hockey League and play at the pace that these guys play at, that's very important. It makes it much easier, certainly the way he skates."

In addition to a developed skill set and dangerous scoring ability, Lindholm brings versatility to the ice.

"He can play all three forward positions," Rutherford said. "His preference is to play center, and we have open spots at both positions and so [coach Kirk Muller] will figure that out. But based on what Kirk's been talking about as trying to balance out our forward lines ??? you could see him start a camp and start a season possibly him and [Jeff] Skinner playing together."

His deal inked, Lindholm said he's eager to earn a spot on the Hurricanes' roster.

"It's fun to sign my first contract," he said. "It's a dream come true. But this is when the tough things start. You need to prove that you deserve the contract, and so on. But it's fun."

"He doesn't have to light it up from Day 1," Rutherford said. "We all know that with a healthy team we have a good team going into camp, and he can just be part of that and go along at his own pace. But based on the experience he has, I don't think it's going to take him very long to fit into our team."

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