Although appearances are deceptive, and it was a long season, Elias Lindholm seemed as fresh and fit Monday as he did when the Carolina Hurricanes began training camp in September.
Last summer, Lindholm changed his offseason training regimen in Sweden and began working with Andreas Ohgren, a personal trainer in Stockholm. Among Ohgren’s other clients, Lindholm said, are Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, Gabriel Landeskog of Colorado and Lindholm’s cousin, Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.
“It was fun,” Lindholm said during an end-of-season interview. “Coming back this year was the best I’ve ever felt. I felt strong. I felt good on the ice. I felt good in the exhibition games, so I went into the season with a good feeling.
“I started off playing good hockey but just didn’t get rewarded, didn’t get the points. That’s tough but I just tried to follow through and stick with the game (plan). For my confidence, it was good to get some points and keep building from there.”
It’s easy to overlook that Lindholm is 22 — a point Canes coach Bill Peters often made this season. While he was Carolina’s first-round pick, fifth overall, in the 2013 NHL Draft and now has played 293 NHL games, he’s still growing into his body, still maturing physically.
Lindholm scored 17 goals in 2014-15, his second NHL season, and had everyone excited about his potential as a scorer. Peters, for one, said he might shoot for 30 in 2015-16 and Lindholm signed a two-year contract extension worth $5.4 million.
Instead, he scored 11. He scored 11 again this season, which disappointed him, going the first 16 games of the season without a goal.
But there was a more complete feel to his game. Lindholm had 34 assists, most of them primary assists, and 45 points, both career highs. He had a career-best 10-game point streak (four goals, seven assists) in March, the Canes’ best month.
He was used at right wing and center, winning 56 percent of his draws. He was used on the power play and penalty kill. He finished the season with a minus-2 rating in 72 games, a big improvement after beiung minus-23 each of the past two seasons.
Lindholm played with toughness and snarl, even after suffering his first career concussion in late-December and missing five games. Listed at 6-1 and 192 pounds, he can deliver hits that hurt.
“Overall it’s a step in the right direction,” Lindholm said of his play this season. “I still feel I have lots to work on. I’m not happy with where my game is at.
“Obviously I had 11 goals and that’s not good enough. I play the power play and a lot of minutes, so 11 goals is not good enough. That’s something I’ve got to work on and be up around 20, maybe even higher.”
Lindholm said if invited by the Swedish national team to compete in the 2017 IIHF World Championships in Paris and Cologne, Germany, he would accept. The Canes’ Victor Rask said the same Monday.
Then, for Lindholm, it will be back to Ohgren’s training, which has an emphasis on using the hips more effectively.
“Go home, work hard and come back even better,” Lindholm said.