Flames First Round Targets 2013: Elias Lindholm

 

Aside from Sean Monahan, Elitersen rookie Elias Lindholm is perhaps the Flames most likely choice at 6th overall this coming June. Like Monahan and Aleksandr Barkov, Lindholm is a center with a offensive capabilities and an advanced two-way game. So, like the two targets we have already profiled, Lindholm ticks a lot of the organization’s boxes.

Unlike Monahan and Barkov, however, Lindholm isn’t a "big body", standing at about 5’11" and weighing 185 pounds. That doesn’t make him overly small, but it also means he’s not the ideal vision of strength and size down the middle.

Nevertheless, Lindholm is universally tabbed as one of the best talents in this draft. International scouting service ranks him the 7th best skater available, while central scouting has him the third best European skater behind Barkov and Valery Nichushkin. Corey Pronman placed him 6th overall while the consensus amongst the various sources collected for the NHLNumbers rankings placed Lindholm 5th.

Surface stats seem to back up the scouts. Lindholm was the higest scoring teen in the Elitersen (SEL) this year with 30 points in 48 games. Former draftees Niklas Jensen (23 points) and Sebastion Colberg (9 points) trailed Lindholm despite being older and more established. Elias was also only one of three kids to score more than 20 points in the league this year and was the youngest of the three.

Aside from the KHL, the Swedish Elite League is the toughest non-NHL pro competition on the planet, so any youngster who has success there is automatically noteworthy.

The Scouting Reports

Lindholm’s scouting profile is dominated by discussions of his compete level, intelligence and two-way game. Corey Pronman had these notes on Lindholm in his ranking:

Lindholm, like Barkov, is a uniquely advanced player for his age. He had a special season for an 18-year-old in the Swedish Elite League, often recording over 20 minutes per game as a premier scoring option for Brynas. He has high-end offensive skills, displaying plus skating ability. He regularly shows his speed in transition, and he can pressure defensemen quickly on the forecheck. Lindholm has great hand-eye coordination and he can really dangle with the puck. His ability to make plays in tight spaces is very impressive. Lindholm’s two-way hockey sense is also high end, as he is a great offensive playmaker. He sees the ice at a high level, and he knows where to position himself in the offensive end.

In his own zone, he makes good reads, and he commits to staying with his assignments. As with most young players, he needs to continue to get stronger. That said, he is fairly firm on the puck, and he can muscle players off of it defensively as well. He is a tad undersized, and that is his one notable weakness.

The key differentiating feature between Lindholm and guys like Barkov and Monhahan is not only size but skating: while the other two guys are bigger and stronger, their skating is also usually characterized as average. Lindholm, however, is frequently described as having above average quickness.

In researching Lindholm, I also approached a couple of Swedish scouts/writers for their insight. First up is Uffe Bodin, editor of Hockeysverige.

Elias Lindholm had a strong rookie season with reigning champs Brynäs. He was especially good during the fall, early October, when he finally got a shot at playing real minutes. For the first few weeks, he was used very sparringly as an extra forward, but after his coach put him on the wing with cousin Calle Jarnkrok, he took off and had a great impact on the team’s power play. Brynäs eventually got into a deep funk and had a really troublesome second half of the season, where they almost lost every game and came just an inch from missing the playoffs after being one of the top teams for the first half of the season. After coming back from the WJC, Lindholm’s production tailed off. He wsn’t playing poorly, but being an 18 year-old kid on a struggling team isn’t easy, especially when you’re suddenly expected to be one of the pillars on the team as a rookie.

Lindholm had 30 points in 48 games which have to be considered very good for an 18 year-old in a defensive league like the SEL. He showed flashes of brilliance during the season that made me think of Nicklas Backstrom, one of his boyhood idols. Lindholm is mainly a playmaker with really good instincts in the offensive zone. He seems to be one step ahead of a lot of his opponents and showed great chemistry with linemates Calle Jarnkrok and Andreas Thuresson during the first months of the season.

The Peter Forsberg comparison is a bit unfair since we’re talking about one of the greatest Swedes that have ever played the game. I think the scout that made the comment meant that Elias Lindholm is pretty gritty and aggressive in his style. He doesn’t mind being physical or going into the painful areas on the ice. He’s also got a temper, which comes from being a stubborn player that really hates to lose.

As always, it’s hard to say how good this kid could be. I would guess that he will, at least, be a productive second line center in the NHL. A guy that plays good solid hockey in both ends of the ice and that could be used to set up the power play. He’s pretty all-round as a player and it’s hard to find ny real weaknesses or concerns, but one could be his health. He’s been hurt a bit a few times and I guess it has something to do with his physical play and the fact that he doesn’t shy away from the action.

Swedish fan and frequent twitterer Steffe G also supplied us with a detailed scouting report:

Skating ability: 8.0

While not a elite speed kind of skater, he’s got many other attributes when it comes to his skating abilities that will help him a lot in the next level of competition. He’s very agile, being able to twist and turn in and out of traffic while using the other tools in his toolbox to create offense.

Puck skills: 9.0

Can handle the puck at a high speed and in tough traffic, controls the play even when tightly checked along the boards, can play an up-tempo give-and-go style of play down low to make use of his linemates to create opportunities.

Passing ability: 9.0

Sees the ice extremely well, and is super smart. Can play the puck with hard, cris passes, quick give-and-goes, saucer passes, far out on his backhand, whichever way is needed to help him create offense.

Finishing ability: 8.0

Here, too, his intelligence is one of his biggest assets. Not the heaviest of shots, he is able to shoot "smart" and make the right decisions when to shoot. Definitely not a shoot-first player, he will sometimes pass up opportunities in order to set someone else up or just keep possession.

Defensive play: 7.0

Backchecks well, understands his assignments very well. Nothing out of the ordinary, but reads and reacts very well and is quickly switching his mind-set from offense to defense and vice versa in order to jump-start a play at any given time.

Physical play/intangibles: good

While he always tries – finishing checks, battling hard along the boards – he is not a punishing player. He’s strong on his skates, so he can protect the puck, and be relatively successful in board battles.

Elias’ top asset is his vision/smarts/decision-making. He sees the ice like few others, not only for passing purposes but he is able to help his teammates do better and create space for himself.

A terrific face-off man in junior, he has been playing on the wing at the SEL level which has led to an impossible evaluation of his face-off skills at the next level.

Short version: smart, agile, playmaker with a fairly advanced two-way game. Concerns are size, health and physical play. 

The Numbers

Lindholm is amongst the upper echelon of prospects in terms of NHL equivalence (NHLE) this year, coming in at about 40 with Barkov thanks to the increased quality of the SEL relative to the SM-Liiga. That said, there is some cause for minor concern when we add context to his results.

First of all, eight of Lindholm’s 11 goals came on the PP, meaning he scored just 3 times at 5on5 this year. I can’t determine how much of his overall offense was garnerd on the PP nor what is the normal rate in the SEL for most forwards, but scoring just 27% of your markers at even strength is a bit of a red flag for me.

In addition, Lindholm fired just 77 shots on net in 48 games, or just 1.6/game, which means his shooting percentage was about 14.3% on the season. That’s a low shot rate and high SH% in the NHL, suggesting Lindholm is either a very accurate Tanguay-like shooter, or a guy who saw the bounces go his way this season. Add those up and it suggests his true goal scoring talent might be a little exaggerated by his output this year.

Lindholm averaged more than 16 minutes a game in the SEL, the sixth highest ice time amongst forwards on his team. As mentioned by Steffe above, however, Lindholm spent most of the season as a winger rather than a center, which makes truly grading his two-way game as a pivot problematic given the discrepency in responsibilities between centermen and wingers, typically. That said, the youngster won 58% of the draws took over the course of the season, for whatever that’s worth.

Conclusion

Lindholm has drawn Forsberg comparisons, but those are probably predicated more on playing style than a level assessment of his future impact at the NHL level. Keep in mind Lindholm is a December 1994 birthday, meaning he’s 8-10 months older than guys like Barkov and Nathan MacKinnon.

His season as an 18-year in a pro league is nevertheless still exceptional, even if we grant that his goal scoring at least was dependent on SH% and circumstances this year. Like most prospects, Lindholm has some minor concerns around his size and strength, but the fact that he was able to compete and thrive in a the SEL as a teen this year suggests that shouldn’t be a significant impediment for him going forward.

Flames First Round Targets

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  • supra steve

    In my little peanut brain I’ve come to the following conclusions:

    1) After the Memorial Cup none of the top three pics will be traded anywhere for anything

    2) Barkov will not fall to us

    3) Nichushkin will go in the top 5

    Therefore we will have the choice of Lindholm or Monahan and frankly I’m torn between the two.

    • BurningSensation

      I totally agree with every thing you said and how u said it. No way Barkov falls to us …. cost to trade up would be insane ….. one of those two is what we get …. seems like people forget how good this draft is …. Lindholm and Monahan would be top 3 most years I bet …. everything I have read is Monahan will be an average #1 center with high end intangibles …. Lindholm will be at least an average #1 center with potential to be an above #1 average center …. I say grab Lindholm and be very very happy we got him …… he will be the first legit center we have had in many many years ……

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I see Lindholm as a nice fit for a guy like Baertschi. Lindholm is a right shot (Calgary has a lot of left shooting LW).

    Lindholm played against men. Monahan against mostly teens. When I read the article I think of Claude Giroux-ish type player. That hyper competitiveness leads me to think Lindholm will be quite the relentless player. He just wants the puck and expects to do something good with it.

    I think down the middle, it would be good to have some high end puck skills to open the ice up.

    The mention of plus skating ability is just enough to put in the Lindholm camp over Monahan. But it’s really close.

    • Brent G.

      It’s a real toss-up for me as well, but I just don’t buy the ‘men vs boys’ argument. The schedule in junior, plus school, plus the physical side, plus the general compete level IMO is more than enough to compensate. After all, it’s not like Monahan is dominating due to size where he’s running everyone over or anything. A tough call, for sure.

      Agree with the othe rposter about Nichushkin being the wild card. I know he got out of his contract and that’s a hugh epositive, but his quote about “if it goes wrong, I can always go back” didn’t exactly instill confidence. Of course, with the language difference, maybe something was lost in the translation.

      Zykov and Hartman with our other 1st’s.

      • Truculence

        Love what u think with the other 2 firsts …… Rychel and Morrissey would be my other two choices …. hopefully 1 of the 4 is available with the Pitt pick

      • Jeff Lebowski

        My argument with men v boys is one in which Lindholm’s competition is against fully developed men. When you look at all the prospects that come through any organization, the first requirement for all of them to physically develop ie gain strength.

        Junior kids are kids, they are still developing.

        What does all this mean? Well Lindholm probably gained considerable ‘skill’ having to be strong on the puck. While he may have more physical development to do, it seems he compensates with hockey smarts or positioning to be able to produce and play significant minutes against strong men who would try to out muscle him all the time.

        Why is Barkov so revered? He did his work against men. If we credit him for that accomplishment we should do the same for Lindholm.

        With Monahan he is probably on the higher end of physical development relative to his junior competition. Lindholm on the lower end in the SEL. Monahan must have grown in confidence playing multiple years in the OHL. Lindholm was essentially a rookie in a pro league.

        While the junior have to balance school pros do nothing but hockey. I would say SEL>>CHL for the reasons of men v boys. I could be wrong but it intuitively makes sense to me.

      • piscera.infada

        I agree with not taking the men vs boys argument too seriously. After much contemplating the last time it was brought up here, I believe it would be a large advantage in the dressing room more than anything. Of course I’m just spit-balling here, but I can imagine being a 18,19,20 year old joining a dressing room of grown NHLers would be intimidating to say the least. I would assume playing in a man’s league no matter where it is would probably help with a faster acclimation to the way pros work and act. I’m not sure if that’s really anything to place any kind of stock in, but it’s something to consider.

      • piscera.infada

        “but his quote about “if it goes wrong, I can always go back” didn’t exactly instill confidence”

        I don’t see how this is a problem at all. This is true of ANY player. Take the Kings’ Bud Holloway for example. The guy put up great AHL numbers, inexplicably never got a look in the NHL from the Kings, and fled to europe, where he has been leading the Elitserien in scoring for 2 years.

        Look at Danny Taylor. He’s not getting a look in the NHL, so he signed in Sweden.

        It is true of ANY player that he can look for work in Europe if his NHL career doesn’t work out. Not just Russians.

        • piscera.infada

          It came across to me as a “if I don’t get my way I’ll tak emy bat and ball and go home” type comment, but I may very well be reading too much into it. Like I said, lost in translation. This is why pro sports teams need intel units, IMO. You don’t want another Filatov (exceptionally talented, whiner to the Nth degree).

  • Graham

    For some unknown reason we played ourselves out of a top 3 or top 5 pick, and will now have to settle for Lindholm or Monahan, or hope that someone drops, or pay an massive price to trade up. Nothing wrong with Lindholm or Monahan, but neither looks like the franchaise center that the Flames desperately need.

    • piscera.infada

      Nothing about that is unknown. The young guys showed they belonged (almost, at least); you can’t fault them for that. There is no way in hell you ice that roster trying to pull your team out of picking in the top 3.

  • seve927

    I really, really want Barkov. Lindholm and Monahan I’d be happy with as they should and could turn out to be fine players, but Barkov has superstar potential.

    With that in mind, just thinking out loud here. I don’t think Barkov slips to 6th. But Nashville might be looking to win now to keep Weber appeased, and could use some veteran help up front.
    If I were Feaster et al. I would throw in an offer of our St Louis Pick + Tanguay + 2014 3rd for the 4th. If that gets rebuffed, replace the 2014 3rd with the Pittsburgh deal. If THAT gets rebuffed, then seriously consider doing the 6th + Tanguay.

    Rational for the Flames: Trading a 33-year old winger who is slowly regressing (yet still effective), and creating room on a left-side that is probably the current’s roster’s biggest strength (Glencross, sometimes Cammy and Baertschi). This would allow Sven to get more top 6 minutes, which he needs.

    Rational for Preds: Right now the Nashville’s LW depth chart is: S.Kostitsyn, Richard Clune, Gabriel Bourque, and Paul Gaustad. They can’t afford to do a longer rebuild because they likely want to keep Weber happy to remain relevant.

    Potential downside: They’re pretty weak at centre, and Barkov could help almost right away.

    • supra steve

      If that is the best offer the Preds get for their first, I would be shocked. I’ll say it yet again, no one is going to give us a top 5 pick for our overpaid castoffs and a later first rounder or even our 6th overall plus our castoffs. If Feaster made that deal (in reverse), we would run him out of town. Tangs in 2000-01 would get that deal done, not in summer 2013.

    • seve927

      The only deal I can think of right now that has a chance is taking LeCavalier’s contract, and swapping picks with TB. Then buying him out so that they can sign him back cheap. That also might get us MacKinnon (probably not after that Memorial Cup performance).

      I think it’s going to cost a lot to move up into that top four, but that only hurts us monetarily – it’s still all positive on the ice. Maybe Tampa could retain a bit of his salary in the trade in that scenario.

    • piscera.infada

      Ahhh, the things I would do to see the Flames pick #4, #6, and get rid of Tanguay….

      I’ve resigned myself to the fact that unless Feaster turns in to Gandolf, it ain’t happening.

      This profile really makes me want to make the jump into the top four (by sacrificing 6) just to get Barkov. I’m also suddenly a fan of Nischukin. Nothing against Monahan/Lindholm, they’re fine – and I’m game if we get either – but I want that impact player.

  • Purple Hazze

    After reading this profile, I definitely prefer Monahan over Lindholm. I can see Monahan fill into the roll of the future captain and leader of this team.

  • MWflames

    The tone of those two articles wasn’t exactly inspiring like some of the prospect profiles i’ve read on here IMO.

    Also, it’s been on the back of my mind for a while now that Lindholm might be the guy that falls in this draft. By fall, I mean a few spots to 8th or 9th. If he makes it to Edmonton, does anyone else think they’d be hard pressed to pick up another smaller forward who’s best weapons are in the offensive zone?

    I am gonna be excited about either Monahan or Lindholm (or by some miracle Barkov), but Monahan is definitely my choice between the two.

  • Craig

    This is a very tough choice, but I think that whichever way we end up going with the sixth pick we’re going to get a high level talent. then hopefully we can add some nice pieces with the other first rounders and have some really strong assets to develop.

    I like the idea of having Monohan for his leadership and his big body presence. With a bit of luck we could have some pretty good centre depth, Backlund, Reinhart, Janko, and this years pick. there’s some potential there for a diverse group of centres.

    • MWflames

      Assuming that they were to all work out, Janko, Monahan (if picked), Backlund, Reinhart would be pretty darn solid.

      Of course, nothing works out that well, but some size down the middle on every line would be very welcome.

      • seve927

        I’d see Arnold on that list too. And Reinhart should definitely be more than a 4th liner, I was kind of hoping that would be a spot for DeBlouw. That might be enough options to give reasonable hope to be solid down the middle. Of course the 1C is the longshot.

  • Truculence

    I think when you’re comparing Lindholm, Barkov, and Monahan I think it’s important here to take into account their nationalities.

    With Barkov, I would personally be willing to take a chance because his top end talent and pure size gives him the edge. Combine that with his “potential ability” the speed and the physicality of the NHL probably won’t have as big of an effect on him as it would on Lindholm.

    With Lindholm, I worry about his size and the whole “compete level” comments. Everyone knows the NHL as a league is a difficult league to be consistent in and how many “chances” have we taken for offensive skill on guys like a Lindholm that have not paid off? Not to mention players of similar background from Sweden have not faired as well in the NHL because of the size and speed of the game. Too many!

    It is for that reason if Barkov is gone by the 6th pick and we don’t move up i would go with Monahan every day all day. Yes, maybe he doesn’t have the upper end skill ability wise. But that doesn’t always equate to goals and points in this league. What Monahan does have is competitiveness, a will to win, a drive to win, leadership quality, and the brains to go to the right areas of the ice and win puck battles. Therefore, Monahan has the potential and ability to put up 60-70 points in this league in my opinion. HE may not score a lot of pretty goals but that doesn’t matter. They all count in the end.

  • piscera.infada

    I used to think Lindholm should be our pick now I’m not so sure. The problem is that neither are for sure top 3 players. That’s why I think it’s important to get Barkov. I think Lindholm still has to be our pick though. The fact that most of his goals were on the power play scare me a bit but then again half of Monahan’s points came on the power play too. Please Barkov just fall to us.

  • Just like the -wolf I’m torn between Monahan and Lindholm. I think with either guy we are getting to get a very good two way centre. However, I don’t think with either guy we will end up with a superstar calibre player.

    Based on the Flames needs there are very few packages I would turn down in order to move up into the top-4. I just believe the key to winning in today’s NHL is superstar level talent and one of the only ways to acquire it is through the draft. This is especially true of this draft with the talent in the top-4.

    The Flames have the resources to conceivably make a deal to get a superstar and they should take it. Very good players can be acquired through trade and free agency, elite players are pretty much exclusively have to be drafted. I hope Jay Feaster is burning up the phone lines to FLA, TB and NSH.

    • Lordmork

      “Just like the -wolf I’m torn between Monahan and Lindholm”

      This article nudged me ever-so-slightly closer to the Monahan camp. I still prefer Lindholm, but as far as the selection goes, I’m pretty much completely ambivalent.

      • This article support my suggestion the other day that Lindholm is not “nothing like” Sam Gagner. Sounds similar’ish IMO, including all his strengths and weaknesses… I believe his ceiling is probably higher, but I’m not convinced this type of player is what you can build a franchise around…. At the end of the day perhaps asking anyone at 6th place to be a franchise player is asking too much. I wonder….

        End of the day I think I prefer Monahan (or trade everything we have including the kitchen sink to get in the top 3). Im still just hoping Barkov falls.

    • BurningSensation

      On the contrary, his NHLE is such that he HAS to be in the conversation at the top end, if only because he has been so successful against men in a real league.

      Personally, I look at Lindholm as a Patrice Bergeron type. Someone who can dominate at both ends of the rink despite his size.

      • RexLibris

        Sounds like a very good comparison.

        If the Flames pick Lindholm they won’t be building around him, despite anything Feaster might say to the contrary.

        Monahan is the more likely candidate at that draft position.

        This isn’t to say that Lindholm is going to be a bust, and a team like the Oilers could do well adding him as he may become a great depth center for the team. However, I don’t necessarily think he has the talent level to be that franchise defining player. Much like Bergeron.

        I’d recommend the Flames stay at #6, take Monahan, and then take another center (or at least forward) and a blueliner with the other two picks.

        Ideally, they take Monahan then trade the other two picks to a team drafting around 10 and try to get Ristolainen. That’d be a good day’s work.

        • BurningSensation

          I actually prefer Lindholm to Monahan. I used Bergeron as an example of a guy who does everything at a high level; pass, shoot, hockey IQ, speed, and can check the elite. A heay lifter at C who can neturalize an opponent while chipping in a ppg? Exactly what the Dr ordered.

          Lindholm’s NHLE was the same as Barkov’s – 40pts, indicating a potential offensive upside that Monhan doesn’t flash. If Lindholm is Bergeron (or a ‘dirty Nik Backstrom) that rates higher to me than the ‘Mike Fisher’ type that Monahan safely projects to.

          Ideally for me Feaster buys a top 5 pick to go with #6. Barkov + Lindholm.

          I’d move Baertschi or eat Lecavalier’s contract – whatever it takes to get a 2nd shot in the top 6.

      • piscera.infada

        HAHAHA OH LOL! No I meant ‘Picture’ in a strictly literal sense! OMG. Kent replaced the picture at the top of the article, so you can’t see it, but his original picture did not have Lindholm in it at all.