Elias Lindholm is approaching the two-month mark of his move to North Carolina.
In those 61 days, he’s gone through an NHL training camp, battled through an injury that seemingly won’t mollify, skated in his first five NHL regular-season games and scored his first-career NHL goal.
And that’s just on the ice.
Away from the rink, the 18-year-old rookie has formed a close bond with fellow rookie Ryan Murphy and Jeff Skinner, who, at the ripe age of 21, is the veteran of the bunch, playing in his fourth NHL season. Just this week, Lindholm got a taste of the southern lifestyle at the North Carolina State Fair, and as far as the driver’s license test goes, that’s a work in progress.
“It’s been a little bit different. Back home in Sweden, I was living with my parents, and then I got an apartment and was 10 minutes from my mom and dad. Now it’s like an eight-hour flight,” Lindholm said. “But if I want to do something, it’s easy to go to the guys here, ask them and hang out with them.”
There is, of course, an adjustment to be made for a teenager who moves from his home country to a new continent and a new country, becoming immersed in a new culture.
Hockey, though, is a fairly universal culture.
“Lindy, coming over here, he’s pretty used to the North American lifestyle I guess with being over here for hockey,” Murphy said. “But there are still some things he needs to work on. He’s doing great, though.”
On the ice, the adjustment has been a bit frustrating for Lindholm, who has reaggravated a shoulder injury multiple times.
On Oct. 11 against Los Angeles, Lindholm left the game twice after absorbing crunching hits along the boards, and he’s been sidelined since. It was a tough break, considering Lindholm was coming off perhaps his best game as a Hurricane, as he scored a goal, won faceoffs at a 60-percent clip and played nearly 14 minutes against Washington the night before.
“I felt like I was playing good. That was kind of bad timing on that hit, but what can I do? I just have to keep working,” he said. “We tried some new shoulder pads, so hopefully that will help. I want to feel 100 percent when I’m coming back.”
In addition to an equipment tweak, the Canes fifth overall draft choice has talked with Rod Brind’Amour about what he can do in order to avoid re-injury.
“It’s kind of tough,” Lindholm said. “Everything happens so quick over here in the small rink.”
Not only does the pace of the game differ in North America, but the style is also dissimilar; as Lindholm has unfortunately experienced first hand, the physicality intensifies on the smaller ice surface.
“Here it’s battling in the corners, trying to get it to the net. It’s kind of different,” Lindholm said. “In the smaller rink, guys come on you quicker. That’s the biggest thing.”
“He has to get into those areas. He’ll go back in (to the lineup) when he’s ready to go back into the physical areas of the game. That’s his game. It’s just a matter of learning how to protect yourself better and receiving hits in contact,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “He has to go to the nets, go into the corner and dig it out. It’s more when he’s comfortable to do it, that’s when he’ll play again.”
Off the ice, the adjustment has been rather smooth for Lindholm, who has found commonality with fellow young guys Murphy and Skinner.
“It’s been great. Young kids can watch out for each other and help each other out,” Lindholm said. “That’s been good for me, having guys my age.”
“Having younger guys to be able to talk to, and for myself, having him and Skins in the dressing room and the young guys on the team, it really helps you get adjusted to the dressing room and makes you feel like part of the team,” Murphy said.
Murphy, a 20-year-old rookie, noted that he played with Swede Gabriel Landeskog in Kitchener just a few years ago. Then and now, the situations bear resemblance.
“Lindy’s doing great,” Murphy said. “It’s funny when he messes up a couple of words, but we’re doing what we can to help him out.”
Now a multi-hour plane ride away as opposed to 10 minutes down the road, Lindholm’s parents visited North Carolina for around 10 days at the outset of the regular season, and they might return around Christmas.
So who buys dinner now that Lindholm has an NHL contract?
“I bought a couple of times, and they were like, ‘No, no you can’t buy every time.’ I think it feels pretty weird for them, but that’s how it works now,” Lindholm said with a smile.
Speaking of food, Lindholm, Murphy and Skinner, along with Riley Nash, went to the State Fair after practice on Monday. Pictorial evidence displayed Murphy and Nash’s dominance of carnival games, while Lindholm and Skinner explored different exhibits, such as the smallest woman in the world.
When asked how her size compared to Murphy, Lindholm cracked, “They were the same, I’d say.”
Murphy laughed and added, “But she towers over Gerbe.”
And the drivers license test? Lindholm groaned.
“I haven’t done it for the second time, but you’ll probably read it on Twitter when I make that.”
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