The first in a series of reports on some top prospects of the Dallas Stars looks at defenseman Esa Lindell, who is coming off his first full professional season in North America.
The 22-year-old Lindell, a third-round pick (74th overall) in 2012 out of Finland, had a solid season with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League as he got acclimated to the North American game. He registered 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) and a plus-six rating in 73 games, tying for eighth among AHL defensemen in scoring.
“He stepped into our lineup there and took a big role,” said Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson. “He was one of our go-to guys at his position. He accepted all his challenges and handled them well.”
“Steadiness,” said Scott White, Dallas Stars Director of Hockey Operations and Texas Stars GM. “He’s a complete player, both ends of the rink. He quietly gets points. He logs 24-26 minutes a night. He quietly does his job.”
Lindell also made his NHL debut in 2015-16 playing four games with Dallas, registering no points while averaging 14:02 of ice time.
“It’s been a good experience,” Lindell said during the call-up in January. “It’s helped me much because I got to know the game here. It’s a faster game.”
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff offered this assessment of Lindell’s initial crack at the NHL.
“For his first NHL experience, I thought he was good,” Ruff said. “I thought he got a really good taste of the pace up here, how quick it is. He can go back [to the AHL] and realize the game here is just another level above.”
The 6-3, 215-pound Lindell, a two-way defenseman who is a left-shot, brings a mix of size and skill to the backend.
“There’s a lot to like about him. He’s a pretty steady player; you know what you are going to get every shift, every night. He’s smart, and he has the ability to do things on both sides of the puck,” said Jackson. “His overall game on the ice, he plays a really secure 200-foot game. He knows where the puck has to go, and he gets it there. Defensively, he is very reliable. There are a lot of positives. He’s still in the learning curve, but there is a lot to suggest he is going to be a pretty good player.”
Lindell’s stellar performance this season came as no surprise. His arrival in North America came on the heels of an impressive performance in Finland’s top league in 2014-15. He was named the top defensemen in the Liiga after registering 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) in 57 games with Assat. He led the league in goals, points and average time on ice (24:56 per game).
Lindell is a mainstay for Finland on the international stage. He’s played for the Finns at the past two World Championships. He was named one of the team’s top three players at the 2015 tournament and led Finland in ice time in 2016 as it won a silver medal. He’ll play for Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey this fall. Lindell was just one of two AHL players selected to play at the tournament when initial rosters for the eight teams were announced in March.
As for the upcoming season, there’s a good chance Lindell will be ready to make the jump to the NHL.
“We have him projected to be on our team, and I think he is going to be,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said in an interview on Sirius XM recently. “He’s a good, young player. He’s a heavy body and he’s part of the transition we have coming into place on our backend.”
Esa Lindell 2015-16 Statistics
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.
|Texas Stars ||AHL ||73 ||14 ||28 ||42 ||+6 ||56 |
|Texas Stars ||AHL (Playoffs) ||4 ||2 ||2 ||4 ||+2 ||0 |
|Dallas Stars ||NHL ||4 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||-3 ||0 |
|Finland ||World Championship ||10 ||1 ||3 ||4 ||+6 ||0 |