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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

Flamesnation player evaluation: Elias Lindholm

When Brad Treliving embarked on his quest to collect 2013 draft class players like Infinity Stones most of us were unsure what the fifth overall selection, Elias Lindholm, would bring to the table. Outside of the collective rejoicing for a right hand shot forward and interest in his versatility, there wasn’t a clear read on the former Hurricane.

Fast forward two years and he’s solidified himself as a core member of the Flames group up front. His breakout season last year was a revelation and his claim to a top-line role was one of the few successes carried over into the 2019-20 campaign.

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2019-20 season summary

In terms of play driving and overall impact, Lindholm’s game did tail off this year. He rode a career-high shooting percentage over the shortened season shooting just over 17 percent (his career average sits at 11.2%).

Additionally, using MoneyPuck’s expected goal model, Lindholm had a noticeable discrepancy between the quality of chances he created and actual goals he scored. As per MoneyPuck, he wracked up 17 tallies 5v5 with an expected goal total hovering just under nine.

GP Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF%Rel OZF% PDO
70 29 25 54 19:43 50.75 0.68 53.45 0.994

All to say, his impressive goal total is probably not solely indicative of his play this season.  Nevertheless, Lindholm made his shots count leading the team in goals and he probably would have hit 30 for the first time in his career had the season concluded as normal.

He played the majority of his minutes on the right flank with his usual top-line counterparts, Gaudreau and Monahan. He also saw a hefty portion of minutes with a different pair of mates playing over 200 minutes between Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk.

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Shortly after Geoff Ward took over he threw the lines in a high powered, Darryl Sutter approved Vitamix. Of the new-look lines the Tkachuk-Lindholm-Mangiapane trio was the most effective and Lindholm looked solid up the middle.

Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 GP TOI CF% xGF% xG±/60
Elias Lindholm Johnny Gaudreau Sean Monahan 52 511.4 52.36 49.22 -0.08
Andrew Mangiapane Elias Lindholm Matthew Tkachuk 28 250.78 53.47 57.32 0.78

In terms of shot share and quality shot share Lindholm wasn’t exceptional. His possession and expected goal shares at 5v5, while positive, were the lowest since his rookie season in Carolina.

While he’s known for being a two-way player Lindholm’s defensive game at even strength this season was nothing to write home about. As per Natural Stat Trick, among forwards, he finished second-worst in goals against per 60 minutes.

Lindholm continued to be a special teams contributor this season. He lead the Flames in power play goals (8), shared the point lead with Tkachuk (19), was second in shots (44), and second in high danger chances (21).

He also topped the forward group in TOI on the penalty kill but had a bit of a rough go shorthanded this year. The PK gave up plenty of quality chances with Lindholm on the ice. According to HockeyViz, opposing teams were 24% more of a threat to score a power play goal with Lindholm on the ice.

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(From HockeyViz.com)

All that said, Lindholm cemented himself as a core piece of this team moving forward. And, was it just me or did it seem like every single time the Flames needed a goal this season, it was number 28 who just so happened to come through with a massive snipe? No, it wasn’t just me. Lindholm was clutch this year. He scored the first goal of a game six times (12th league-wide) and had seven game-winners (8th league-wide).

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Compared to last season

Across the board, matching the dazzling heights the Flames reached last season was always going to be tough.

It was encouraging to see Lindholm continue to find the back of the net this season. However, in comparison to his breakout 18-19 campaign, this year was a slog.

The most noticeable deviation was reflected in his on-ice even-strength defensive numbers.

18-19 5v5 On Ice 19-20
2.38 GA/60 2.96
27.18 SA/60 32.53
48.78 CA/60 56.37
2.27 xGA/60 2.43

In short, while Lindholm was able to continue to find the twine, his even-strength defensive impact was below average. Whereas last year he was the defensive conscious of the top line, this season, when alongside Monahan and Gaudreau, he was more or less along for the shooting gallery ride.

What about next season?

It’s safe to say the offense is here to stay. He proved he’s an above average finisher.

It would benefit the team greatly if Lindholm could take the next step towards truly becoming a top play driving, two-way player that we have seen flashes of.

The next logical step might be moving him to center for good. He’s smart enough, skilled enough and proved he can handle, heck, even thrive centering a play driving line.

A unit featuring the playmaking of Gaudreau, the play driving of Tkachuk, and the laser like finishing ability of Lindholm makes a lot of sense.

Moving forward, the Flames have a reliable, versatile, and highly skilled shooter who can be counted on for 20 or more goals per season, locked up at under $5 million per season. Not many guys are giving you value like that.

2020 Player Evaluations

Mark Giordano | Sean Monahan | Sam Bennett | Johnny Gaudreau