|Swedish blueliner Hampus Lindholm (right) caught the attention of NHL scouts with his performance at the IIHF Under-18 world championships in the Czech Republic earlier this year (Mika Kylmaniemi/HHOF-IIHF Images).
(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 15 selection of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting, but are not a reflection of Senators' internal scouting rankings).
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Unheralded Swedish prospect rises up the scouts' rankings as the season progresses, become a hot commodity by the time the annual NHL draft is held.
Four years ago, it was the story of Erik Karlsson, a late-season riser eventually selected by the Ottawa Senators with the 15th pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The same guy, it should be noted, who's a finalist for the James Norris Trophy as the National Hockey League's top defenceman.
Though he has yet to make his mark in the NHL, Mika Zibanejad's story reads much the same. The sixth overall pick a year ago, he now rates as one of the Senators' top forward prospects and could well be in their lineup to start the 2012-13 season.
Could Hampus Lindholm be next?
The 6-3, 196-pound blueliner is considered a serious sleeper prospect in a draft that is rich in defencemen, especially in the first round. But given the buzz around Lindholm — he blew away scouts with his performance the VO2 max endurance test at the recent NHL Scouting Combine — it's highly unlikely he'll last beyond the first day of the proceedings in the 2012 draft, slated for Friday and Saturday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
"No. 2 or 3 defenceman with a home run upside," the Red Line Report scouting service raved.
"He's a big, powerful skater with a fluid stride and has gone from staying in the background as a defence-first rearguard to an offensive force in a matter of six months," Red Line's Kyle Woodlief wrote recently in USA Today. "His confidence is skyrocketing and he looks to make an impact on the game at both ends now."
Lindholm's rise in scouts' eyes began with his solid performance for Sweden's silver-medal winning team at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 worlds in the Czech Republic (he was named one of the Tre Kronor's top three players at the event). The 18-year-old native of Helsingborg also played a key role for his club team, Rogle, during the Kvalserien series in which Rogle earned promotion back up to the Sweden's top division (Elitserien) for next season.
"I had a good season, my team did well and I felt like I had a good season," Lindholm told reporters at the combine. "It also went real well on the national team (at the U18s). If you're playing well on the national team, others will (notice) you. If you just play good with your home club, not as many will see you. That's the big difference."
By season's end, Lindholm rated No. 4 among European skaters in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting, while International Skating Services has him 19th overall. Indeed, Lindholm could very well be on the board when the Senators pick at No. 15 — the same slot they landed Karlsson.
At Rogle, Lindholm benefits from the tutelage of Kenny Jonsson, a former New York Islanders captain who works with the team's blueliners. The effects of that relationship began to take hold when Lindholm was called up from Rogle's junior team to the big club after Christmas.
"He just took off from there," said Uffe Bodin, the editor-in-chief of hockeysverige.se, a popular website for hockey fans in Sweden. "He was one of Rogle's top defencemen as they managed to get a promotion from Allsvenskan to the Elite League. Lindholm has good size and does a good job defensively, although I would say he's more of an offensive D-man."
Ask Lindholm to describe himself as a player and he immediately points to his demeanour, both on and off the ice. It's something that matters greatly to him.
"I'm very calm on the ice," said Lindholm, who considers Jonsson and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nick Lidstrom his biggest role models. "I'm a (two) way defenceman, always doing my best for the team. I have good body language (attitude) if I'm not playing. I always like to show my best side. If we are down 5-0, I will always keep playing ... People that meet me, I like them to say 'he's a good person. He's always doing his best.' That's how I want people to recognize me."
Noesen gets invite to USA Hockey evalutation camp
Senators forward prospect Stefan Noesen is among a group of players who will take part in USA Hockey's summer evaluation camp in advance of the 2013 IIHF world junior championship, slated for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia.
The summer camp is slated to run Aug. 4-11 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. The final American roster won't be set until after a pre-tournament camp to be held Dec. 19-23 in Helsinki.