Though the sequencing may vary, many pundits agree that this year’s top five draft prospects (in alphabetical order) are Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin.
The dark horse candidate? Elias Lindholm.
Lindholm, a native of Gavle, Sweden, is the third-ranked European skater by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Service. Similar to Barkov, Lindholm, 18, attracted attention with a stellar season in a professional league as a teenager.
The right-shooting center has top-end offensive abilities and an impressive two-way game. Weighing in at 181 pounds, Lindholm has room to fill out his six-foot frame, but he’s still rather strong on the puck.
“He’s a skill guy who has a high compete level,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ chief of amateur scouting. “He’s a good skater, and he works very hard.”
Developed in the Brynas system, Lindholm made his debut in the Swedish Hockey League as a 17-year-old, skating in 12 regular-season games and two playoff matches for the Brynas 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 Swedish Hockey League. In 48 games with Brynas, he led all SHL juniors with 30 points (11g, 19a) and was only one of two Brynas skaters who finished the season with a plus rating. Lindholm ranked fourth among SHL junior players, second among SHL junior forwards and sixth among Brynas forwards in average ice time 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 SHL rookie of the year finalist.
Lindholm is a two-time silver medalist in international play. As an alternate captain for the Swedish national team in the 2012 World Under-18 Championship, Lindholm potted three points (2g, 1a) in four games. He recorded four points (2g, 2a) in six games skating with Team Sweden at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
Some scouts have compared Lindholm to fellow Swede Peter Forsberg. MacDonald cautions against such lofty association, even if he projects as a future top-six forward.
“You have to be careful when you throw around names like Forsberg,” he said. “You don’t want to tag a guy with a label too early that gives him too much of a burden to bear coming in.”
MacDonald, rather, prefers a comparison to Lindholm’s peers.
“Similar to Nate MacKinnon, he does everything at speed,” he said. “He approaches every shift with a very strong work ethic and doesn’t take any shifts off. He’s smart, he’s skilled and he understands the game.”
Lindholm hails from a hockey background. His father, Mikael, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 12th round (237th overall) of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He logged 18 games in the NHL in the 1989-90 season, posting four points (2g, 2a). Aside from nearly 30 games in the AHL and a season in the now-defunct International Hockey League (IHL), the balance of Mikael’s 14-year hockey career was largely spent in the then-Swedish Elite League.
His son figures to be a top-10 NHL selection on June 30 in New Jersey, and if the situation presents itself, Lindholm could sneak into the first five and would fit in with the Hurricanes just as much as any one of the other elite forwards available.
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