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FlamesNation player evaluation: Elias Lindholm

In a trade that sent Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and prospect Adam Fox to Carolina, Elias Lindholm started the 2018-19 season in a different jersey for the first time in his career.

2018-19 season summary

Lindholm had great success in his first season with his new team, setting a career-high in goals, assists, and points by quite a large margin in his sixth NHL season.

GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS POINTS TOI/GP 5V5 CF% 5V5 CF% REL OZS% PDO
81 27 51 78 20:02 55.54 2.11 58.79 1.017

He found almost instant chemistry on that top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. For a few seasons, Monahan and Gaudreau have been trying to find that perfect linemate to complete their line. We already know those two have been quite the dynamic duo, but it’s been a process trying to find that winger to compliment them and they’ve gone through a handful of players to try and find that match.

Prior to the season, many anticipated that James Neal would be starting on that top line, but after some offensive troubles for him and Lindholm finding that chemistry while also being a better two-way player, it was a perfect fit. Since Lindholm can also play at center and is good at faceoffs, this was a way to take some of that responsibility off of Monahan since we know of his history with wrist injuries. Gaudreau and Monahan also hit career-highs in goals, assists, and points. This line had the third best goal-differential at 5v5 at +18, one lower than the highest (min. 200 TOI) and had the second-best goals scored at 5v5 at 52.

Lindholm averaged the second most TOI/GP among all forwards at 20:02, just two seconds behind Gaudreau. Lindholm was part of that first powerplay unit with a little over half of his assists coming on the powerplay. His incredible wrist shot mixed with Matthew Tkachuk tipping those pucks in made for a fun powerplay (at times), with 12 of his 17 PP assists being primary. He also averaged 2:18 minutes per game on the PK, the most amongst the forwards, averaging 21 seconds more per game than the next highest forward on the team (Mark Jankowski).

Possession-wise, Lindholm had his best season at 55.54 CF% at 5v5, the third best among forwards on the team. However, as I mentioned earlier, he’s a good two-way player and has always been good with possession. He didn’t generate as many individual attempts or scoring chances as you would expect, given how much time he averaged per game, ranking just seventh among Flames forwards in both categories. However, the team and his new linemates still did better with him on the ice, so it’s hard to justify complaining about that, especially given the circumstances (new teammates, great contract, etc). Among players who joined a new team, Lindholm was the second-highest-scoring player, after John Tavares.

Compared to last season

Lindholm averaged over two minutes more per game this season than last, and averaged close to at least two minutes more than any of his other seasons with Carolina. Last season, he fluctuated between three different lines, not quite having a consistent spot or consistent linemates, unlike this season. He spent the majority of his time alongside Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal on that top line, but he did spend a decent amount of time on the second line and on the third at times, with the Hurricanes heavily leaning on Aho, Staal, and Teuvo Teravainen.

While he still found a lot of PP time, Lindholm wasn’t utilized as much on the penalty kill last season, averaging just 1:21 per game, almost an entire minute less than this season on a Hurricanes PK that ranked in the bottom ten in the league.

This season, as I mentioned, it was almost instant chemistry with Gaudreau and Monahan. The kind of chemistry Lindholm hasn’t seen yet in his career and was utilized much more in all aspects of the game. He’s basically become the full package.

What about next season?

The Flames got a steal with Lindholm. He is signed at $4.85 million through the next five seasons, making this top line one of the best bangs for your buck in the NHL. This line has an xGF of 40.69, the second highest line in the NHL. Individually, his on ice xGF is at 50.9 and you can’t help being excited about his future with the team, especially considering his age and contract.

If he, along with Monahan and Gaudreau, can keep up the kind of play they had in the regular season (we don’t talk about the playoffs), it’s hard not to be enthusiastic, considering they can be one of the highest-scoring lines in the league.

2018-19 player evaluations

#4 Rasmus Andersson | #5 Mark Giordano | #7 TJ Brodie | #8 Juuso Valimaki | #10 Derek Ryan | #11 Mikael Backlund | #13 Johnny Gaudreau | #18 James Neal | #19 Matthew Tkachuk | #21 Garnet Hathaway | #23 Sean Monahan | #24 Travis Hamonic | #27 Austin Czarnik |

  • Off the wall

    Lindholm is a beauty. He’s got a great shot and his GF/ GA is tops among forwards. He also hits more than Monahan and Gaudreau combined x2.

    I’d actually like to see him as our 2nd line centre, much like Free has mentioned.

    Then Backlund becomes our true 3rd line centre, which is what he should be on our team.

    Neal sputtered all season, however he HAS to play in the top 6, not bottom 6. Yeah, call me crazy, but a 20 goal scorer, is needed on the top lines.
    Put him in a position to succeed, just as Lindholm had his opportunity this season.

    Just like the Gatorade crew enjoyed 55 games of success, it didn’t translate into a 82 game season.

    I’d rather have 2 -3scoring lines then one top heavy one. Cuz that lasted 5 games in the playoffs.
    We should have been able to go at least 3 rounds. But we were KO’d very easily.

    We still require more RW depth, and I’m sure you’ll see some changes in the lineup.

    First order of business, structure the team for a less top heavy line and create offence/ defence by committee.

    Then you’ll see the Flames make it past round 1…

    • Puck Head

      Neal’s +/- during the regular season was -5. If he can’t turn this stat around I could care less about him being a ‘20 goal’ player. If he doesn’t have a positive affect he should not be gifted a spot in the lineup.

    • freethe flames

      OTW; Neal’s performance and effort this year did not deserve a chance to play in the top 6. Maybe he rebounds and has a great offseason of development but maybe he doesn’t. My money would be on that he doesn’t. You are right that there needs to be more balance offensively and defensively on this team and to do that they need to change more than just the positions of a few deck chairs; they need some new and better deck chairs.

    • The Red Knight

      I honestly don’t know how Flames were aloud to play like that , nowhere. Lose to the compete level of the other 15 teams 13 which were under the Flames in regular season, 82 points for Monahan great but that was just st weak and he has no business wearing a letter. Monahan is so soft he should be in a snuggles or downy commercial.

  • Just.Visiting

    I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but Lindholm greatly exceeded my expectations and the contract seems cheap relative to what we saw last year. I thought he was the most solid, consistent two-way forward on the Flames.

    As an extra bonus, my 16 year old daughter has now become a huge Flames fan because of him!

  • BendingCorners

    If BT does (nearly) nothing, next year’s baseline is the same 13 forwards, the same five defensemen but with Kylington, Valimaki and Stone rounding the total to eight, and Rittich and Gillies in net. They could improve organically and go deeper next year, as is.
    But BT always makes changes, and two of those have already been signalled – wanting to play Lindholm at center, and trying to trade Frolik. The first one creates a hole on RW, where the team already has holes, so a UFA signing (Connolly, Donskoi, others?) would help. Trading Frolik for Zucker – if that is still an option – would help with RHS scoring and let the UFA be more of a support player than a star player.
    Assuming Hathaway signs for under 1MM and BT tries Gillies instead of hunting for a backup, there will still be a cap issue adding the UFA RW, since he will be the 14th forward. Even if BT trades Jankowski and Czarnik and sends Kylington to Stockton, the team will likely be over the cap by 1.5-2.5MM. What it really comes down to is that the team can keep Neal or the team can sign Connolly and buyout Neal, but the team cannot have all of Connolly and Neal and Zucker. Replacing Frolik (plus somebody) with Zucker is an improvement offensively, but not a huge one. Replacing Neal with Connolly as well would have a much bigger impact.
    Somebody replied to one of my posts last week, challenging the logic for buying out Neal. But here it is in a nutshell: Neal is toast, buy him out and sign somebody like Connolly and the roster will be better for the same total cap hit.
    Lindholm is a good player and the Flames are a good team. Improving them though pretty much requires buying out Neal.

      • The Red Knight

        Yeah puck it will be exciting to see Valimaki,Magi and Doobie take it to the next level next season.hopefully Neal has some pride and works his ass off and lights it up for us next season.

        • KootenayFlamesFan

          Sorry for some reason I saw right wing (Frolik’s position) instead of right hand shot. My bad.

          The concept holds true if Zucker was a direct replacement for Frolik who is also a left shooting RW. If the intent was to place Zucker on LW, or the belief was that he shoots right, then my comment is meaningless.

          • KootenayFlamesFan

            Zucker is currently a left shooting LW which eliminates the 1-timer as an option. Although i have no idea what his 1 timer is like, the guy who is the topic of this article has a LETHAL one and should be used on LW in my opinion, particularly on the PP. It was a video of him in this exact scenario that got me so excited about him in the first place.

            I also think Johnny is a much more dangerous shooter from the RW rather than his current LW position. I just keep remembering that game tying goal against Anaheim in the playoffs under hartley. If memory serves me he scored a few from that spot that year.

      • BendingCorners

        Yes, thank you. Not sure why I thought he was a RHS. Maybe because he plays RW a lot, which at least makes for an upgrade on scoring compared to Frolik.

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      I think you are forgetting that besides Frolik likely being traded, one or both of Brodie and Stone could be traded to free up cap space for another forward. I don’t anticipate the owners would allow a buyout of Neal after just of 5 years…bad financial management.

  • Flamesforever

    We need a 1C. I’m convinced Monahan is not a 1C. He’s a 1B, still an excellent offensive player, but he needs to be fed offensive zone starts in order to be most effective. He’s a crazy idea.. Gaudreau for Point. We would get a true play driving centre.
    Tkachuk Point Lindholm
    Bennet Monahan Neal
    Mangiapane Backlund Frolik
    Jankowski Ryan Hathaway
    Feed 2nd like Ozone starts.

    • Puck Head

      Frolik is finished as a Flame after his agent made the tweet about his playing time. The failed Zucker trade seems to confirm this. Slot Dube into his spot.

      Monahan does not appear to be made for playoff hockey. If he could be moved to help get a 1RW to play alongside Point and MT that would be amazing. Drop Lindholm to 2C.

        • freethe flames

          I guess I like Brodie more than you do; but I do agree that it is time for him to go elsewhere. So what would you expect back in a trade and which teams out there wold be good trading partners? A trade of Brodie needs to result in the Flames acquiring a RHS forward who can play in the top 6. If that means a player directly or draft picks that make this possible then that would be great.

      • freethe flames

        I agree I think either Mangiapane or Dube can replace what Frolik does for this. The question what can you get for him at the draft? If we got a 3rd and later round pick or a d prospect for the Heat I would be happy with that. Those picks might be helpful in acquiring a needed RHS froward. If nothing else the cap space would be helpful ($4.3m). Which team is a likely target?

  • freethe flames

    Lindholm had a break out season playing for the Flames but The issue is that the whole top line seemed to disappear after the all star break. The key for BP is to find a way to prevent that from happening again next year. One solution we have discussed on this sight is moving Lindholm to play with Tkachuk which would then slot Backs down a slot; which I think would help the team. The problem of course in doing so is that there is no one currently on the squad who is a natural fit for the top line. Some will suggest to give Neal a shot there and that would be great if it works but based upon his performance here last year it seems evident to me that he cannot skate well enough to make that line better.

    BT needs to find a way to add to this forward group.

    • withachance

      I actually think it makes sense to move Monahan with Tkachuk. They’re two slower players but can work to create a cycle game. Neal can play then play with Chucky and Monny, which is more to his speed and has two linemates that can get him the puck. Lindholm stays with Johnny as his centre.

      Johnny – Lindholm – ??? (Shaw, Kapanen, Eberle, ???)
      Tkachuk – Monny – Neal
      Bennett – Backlund – ???
      ??? – Ryan – ???

      Slot in Mangiapane, Dube, Janko & Czar (Im for trading Janko and Czar and bringing other depth pieces, like a Connelly from Washington)

      • Puck Head

        The easiest, and most difficult solution, to fix our line combinations is if Tre could somehow find a legit 1C. Once you slot a top centreman into the lineup the line juggling becomes easier. This would also require moving Monahan.

        Backlund is the shutdown guy and will continue to play 2C until someone better comes along. I would actually like to see Lindholm given a chance at 2C but it’s not going to happen. Like it or not, that is Backlund’s role on the team. He’s also too expensive to be a 3C (kinda like Neal playing on the 3rd line or Ryan on the 4th).

        • withachance

          I dont see cap hit as a direct correlation to their “designated line” Backlund does much more than a typical 3rd liner. Ryan does much more than a typical 4th liner. Just because thats where they’re penciled in on the lineup doesnt mean theyre overpayed. Johnny coming in at under 7M is criminally underpayed for a 1st liner, but no one really complaining about that are they.

          I do think Backlund will primarily play shutdown role in the coming season, as Monahan really needs help as the de facto top centre. Lindholm at C would be great, or bring in another top 6 center (hayes, Kadri)

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Damn, Chucky, Monahan and Neal might be the slowest line in the NHL. In the a game that values speed, these clods would get their lunch served to them shift after shift.

        • withachance

          The aim is to have a line that can cycle and have maintained ozone time – we’ve seen lines in the playoffs that arent particularly fast but can play well down low. Just a thought

      • freethe flames

        Your Tkachuk/Monny/Neal line would need only ozone starts and any turnovers could get very ugly very quickly. It is something to consider if Neal comes to camp ready to play.

        • withachance

          Yeah very fair points. They’re going to have to play with Gio a lot to cover.

          The point is to find chemistry mainly for Neal that fits their style. I think Tkachuk and Monny are closest to Neal in terms of speed and playstyle. Defensive liabilities is a definite risk.

      • Herringchoker1971

        Withachance, I like what your trying to do here with centers. Lets assume for a minute the Flames trade Brodie and Frolik only. Which is reasonable.

        Lets also assume the only take back is draft picks, a goalie and prospects. No need to get our hopes up.

        Lets also assume that Neal is still here.

        If they move Lindholm to center they will gift Neal the second line RW to start the year to see how he responds. If Neal responds and the only forward change is the insertion of Dube, this is how I see next season shaking out.

        Johnny Monny Tkachuk
        Bennett Lindholm Neal
        Mangiapane Backlund Janko
        Dube Ryan Hath

        The way I see it this team has tons of room to get even better offensively without adding a big name. I can see Bennett finally getting his breakout in this lineup. I see Lindy regressing a bit TBH. I hope to god Neal plays to his averages….if he does that will be huge for us. Mangiapane should be better and I still think Janko has 15 more points in the tank. If Dube can progress like Mangiapane then that 4th line could be the best in Hockey.

        I’ve said it before and I will say it again. This team isn’t crying for more offense. We have offense and lots of it. This team needs more defensive grit and a backup goalie.

        • withachance

          Yes agreed. I think the moves to make in the forward corps is purely complementary. Players like Shaw, Kadri, Hayes, Connelly would all add a more functional toughness. I still think Bennett is perfect as a 3rd liner with Backlund (he’s always done well with the Backlund bump) Janko and Czar are good pieces to flip for some sideways move that give more toughness.

          Replace Bennett with Janko in that lineup and bring in a top 6 winger would be ideal

          • withachance

            @Baalzamon

            I for one didnt mind that Dougie never took the body – I didnt like him because of how bad he was in his own zone and in decision making.

            I also dont need players to go out of there to show that they’re “hard” or “tough”. Hayes can cycle down low and hard to knock off the puck. That’s the functional toughness I was talking about. Lots of players just hit for the sake of hitting – I dont want to see that when the point of a game is to score goals

      • Hockeysense9393

        I don’t mind that set up, to tell you the truth. Pretty good cycling wingers with Monny out front? The speed factor is kind of like pitching isn’t it… You have one line really fast with one line not so fast. Keep the other team always on their toes, changing the tempo. I have read a few places that they are really looking at Lindholm for centre next year. Even if they don’t fish a good centre this summer, that’s still a pretty good lineup down the middle.

  • Jobu

    The real problem with the top line, and it always has been, is that they are a line built on scoring on the rush, not in the zone.

    If you look at Marchand/Pastrnak/Bergeron, arguably the best line in hockey, each one of them can carry the puck, pass, shoot, cycle, and play defense INDIVIDUALLY. Sean can only do 2 of those things. Johnny 3.

    Lindholm can do it all. He needs to be surrounded with more multifaceted players like him.

    • Sterls

      I agree, which is why I think Lindholm should be moved to 1C and Monahan traded for a RW who can can score and bring an element to the game that Monahan lacks. I floated the idea to Tarasenko yesterday, as he could match Monahan’s scoring, but he can also carry play, and muck in the corners. It was pointed out that he hasn’t had a great playoffs this year, and likely a lateral move, but I think having another guy on that line that can carry the puck into the zone opens up space for both him and Johnny and perhaps prevents a team from shutting down the line by smothering Johnny like Colorado did this year.

  • redwhiteblack

    Brad should be consulting with Julien BriseBois as to what happened to them the first round. An “Out in First Round GM Support Group” weekly call to see if anything can be learned to prevent an early exit again next year.

  • CowboyBob

    He was great for 2/3 of the season. Good on face offs, good defensively, bailed out Monahan and Gaudreau by getting the puck out of the defensive end of the ice after one of them had a give away. Good quick shot. Not sure what happened the last part of the year, but it just seems like he never really returned from the all-star break. The question is who is the real Lindholm, the one from Oct to Jan or the one from February to April. I’m seriously hoping for the former. I guess we will see.

  • freethe flames

    For me the issue is how to make this team better going forward and BT has a number of options: they may believe that the forward group just needs reshuffling and with a years more experience. So Janko, Mangiapane or Dube can step up and fill all the problems along with a rebound year from Neal. Secondly they may believe that they can fill the hole on RHS via free agency; I have already listed the UFA market for RHS and there are couple of them I would look at: Donskoi and Connolly. Third they can make a trade and we have discussed a couple of ideas on FN; most of which are likely pipe dreams but others may have a seed of truth to them. Or some combination of all three; which is likely what will happen.
    If as most of us suspect Frolik is traded one of Mangiapane, Dube, Janko and Czarnik will be given a chance to move up and fill his role. BP may decide to give Lindholm an offensive center spot and better slot Backs as more of a defensive center allowing Janko to develop on the wing. With the $4.3m saved on moving Frolik then BT can pursue the top RHS FA; none of which I would pay more than that. Getting either of Connolly or Donskoi would make our forward group harder to play against; are either top 3 material; that of course is questionable but both could possibly bring the kind of energy that helps that line. The trade market is always a crap shoot in projecting; did anyone have us making last years trade? I know I didn’t. Who do I like and think would be a fit; I have said that Zibby is my first choice but to honest I don’t see it happening, Shaw fro Montreal is more realistic but I see him as piece to play with Lindholm and Tkachuk more than with Johnny and Monny.