The Carolina Hurricanes apparently have Swedish forward Elias Lindholm on the fast track to the NHL.
Lindholm, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Canes on Monday. Lindholm, who called the signing a "dream come true" during a press conference at PNC Arena, will receive $832,500 on the NHL level -- or $70,000 at the AHL level -- in each of the three years. He received a signing bonus of $277,500.
General manager Jim Rutherford said Monday he would be "shocked" if Lindholm was not on the Canes' roster next season. He said Lindholm, who played for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League last season, preferred to play center but could be used at any of the three forward positions.
"We all realize that he's an experienced player, because he played in the men's Swedish league last year, and not many players of his age are capable of doing that and certainly not putting up the points he did," Rutherford said.
Lindholm, 18, was the the league's top scorer among junior-aged players last season with 30 (11 goals, 19 assists) in 48 games. He was a finalist for rookie-of-the-year honors.
Asked about his chances of playing at the NHL level next season, Lindholm said, "I think I'm ready."
Lindholm was the top scorer among the league's junior-aged players with 11 goals and 19 assists (30 points) in 48 games, and a finalist for rookie-of-the-year honors.
Lindholm said he needs to continue to work on his strength and skating, noting, "It's another step to the NHL." But Rutherford said the transition to the NHL could be relatively seamless for the 6-1, 192-pound Lindholm, a native of Boden, Sweden.
"The biggest thing I see is that he plays the game at a high tempo," Rutherford said. "To come into the National Hockey League and play at the pace these guys play at, that's very important and makes it that much easier. The opportunity is there to start with the Hurricanes. I would be shocked if he doesn't based on all the reports and what I've seen.
"We do have to be careful. We do have to recognize how old he is and the fact he's going to move to a new country and there's going to be an adjustment. But he doesn't have to light it up from day one. We all know that with a healthy team, we have a good team going into (training) camp and he can just be a part of that and go at his own pace."
Canes coach Kirk Muller sat in on the final prospect interviews in New York before the June 30 draft in New Jersey and liked what he saw and heard from Lindholm.
"He's a very mature kid for his age," Muller said. "To be 18 and go into a room with six or seven men to be interviewed is not an easy process, but I was impressed by his maturity."
Former Canes forward Robert Kron heads up the team's European scouting and saw Lindholm play numerous times, for Brynas and on Swedish junior teams.
"He has the vision and playmaking ability (but) I was most impressed with his work ethic," Kron said. "He plays hard every shift and never gives up on any play. He's a two-way player all over the ice. He plays physical, finishes his checks.
"He's pretty much the model, complete hockey player for me."
Lindholm said balance was a strong point of his game but that he needed to improve his strength and skating.
"It's another step to play in the NHL," he said.