Canes expect top draft pick Elias Lindholm to make team

calexander@newsobserver.comJuly 15, 2013 

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Hurricanes No 1 draft pick, Elias Lindholm, speaks with the media after signing with the team Monday July 15, 2013 at the PNC Arena

CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Carolina Hurricanes’ development and skills camp

    When: Tuesday-Saturday

    Where: PNC Arena (open to the public)

    Schedule

    Tuesday: Forwards on ice at 5 p.m., defensemen at 6:20 p.m.

    Wednesday: Powerskating – defensemen at 5 p.m., forwards at 6:20 p.m.

    Thursday: Forwards on ice at 5 p.m., defensemen at 6:20 p.m.

    Friday: Team practice, 5:30 p.m.

    Saturday: Summerfest celebration, 10 a.m. Game and skills competition, noon.

    Information: carolinahurricanes.com

— There is no guarantee that Swedish forward Elias Lindholm will be playing for the Carolina Hurricanes next season.

But general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday he would be “shocked” if Lindholm doesn’t make the team. He also noted Lindholm was being shown about Raleigh this week “looking for a place to live in October.”

Lindholm, 18, was the Hurricanes’ first-round pick and the fifth overall selection at the NHL Entry Draft last month. On Monday, he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canes during a press conference at PNC Arena.

Lindholm, who called the signing a “dream come true,” will receive $832,500 at the NHL level or $70,000 at the American Hockey League level each of the three years. He received a signing bonus of $277,500.

From all indications, Lindholm is on the fast track to the NHL and said Monday, “I think I’m ready.” He prefers to play center but also can be used on either wing, and is said to have the kind of competitiveness the Canes and coach Kirk Muller are seeking.

Lindholm spent last season with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League, competing against players in their 20s and 30s. He 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.

“Not many players of his age are capable of doing that and certainly not putting up the points he did,” Rutherford said.

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.”

The rinks are bigger in Europe, which works to the advantage of smart, skilled skaters. Lindholm said he believes he will quickly adjust to the smaller ice surfaces of the NHL.

“But the fact he played against the men in a men’s league is an important factor,” Muller said. “From the (video) I’ve seen of him, he’s obviously got acceleration on his skates. Sweden has been known to produce smart players, plus he has a little bite and edge to his game.”

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 national 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.”

Kron said Lindholm reminds him of Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, another Swede, but with more physicality.

Lindholm is attending the Canes’ development and skills camp for prospects this week at PNC Arena. The on-ice sessions are open to the public and will be held Tuesday through Friday. The fans’ Summerfest – including a scrimmage – is Saturday.

Following the draft, Lindholm and his family took off for South Beach near Miami for a vacation. This week he’s by himself, ready for hockey and the next step.

Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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