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.
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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 |