Elias Lindholm’s scorcher of a shot came late in the Carolina Hurricanes’ first scrimmage of preseason training camp Friday at PNC Arena.
There was the flick of the wrists. A goaltender beaten, looking back over the shoulder. The puck in the net.
Cam Ward wasn’t the one in net but was at the bench, observing. The Canes’ veteran goalie flashed a knowing smile, having faced that shot before.
“He has that quick release,” Ward later said. “It’s tough to read coming off his stick, partially due to the curve (of the stick blade) and partially the way he releases the shot.
“He’s definitely the guy who has the potential to score a lot of goals. Hopefully, that’s the case this year.”
The Canes need it to be the case. The Swedish forward, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013, scored 17 goals last season in his second year in the league and Canes coach Bill Peters, like Ward, expects more from the 20-year-old.
“His ceiling is quite high,” Peters said Friday. “He was hurt a little bit the first two years, coming in and playing a little undersized probably. He’s bigger, stronger and probably in the best shape of his life, which he should be at his age.
“Depending on who he plays with he’s going to be a guy who should scratch toward 30 goals.”
For Lindholm, playing for Sweden in the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic helped fill a longer summer than he or his Canes teammates wanted. He played wing on a line centered by Victor Rask – finishing with two goals and four assists in eight games – and Peters has said the two might be used on the same line this season for the Hurricanes.
“He’s a real smart center,” Lindholm said. “He works hard and likes to make plays.”
Rask noted he and Lindholm were on a line with Eric Staal for the Canes last season when Lindholm had his five-point game against the Edmonton Oilers. “Lindy,” as he’s called, notched his first NHL hat trick as the Canes won 7-4 in the March 8 game at PNC Arena.
“I think we have good chemistry and we know what we’re doing out there,” Rask said of Lindholm.
These last few summers have been too long. We talked about it in the team meeting, that we want to have a shorter summer upcoming.
Canes goalie Cam Ward
Lindholm plays with an edge to his game and appears sturdy enough at 6 feet 1 and 192 pounds to handle the physical demands. He played 81 games last season, had four game-winning goals and 22 assists, and is a sound player in the defensive zone.
“You always want to be better every season,” Lindholm said. “I worked out really hard this summer and I put high expectations on myself. I want to help this team make the playoffs.
“For me, last year was a step in the right direction (but) for myself it really wasn’t good enough. You always want to put up more points. Hopefully I can produce more and I’ll help the team gets wins. I feel confident, knowing (Peters) for a year and what he wants from you. He’ll probably be putting more expectations on me, too.”
Lindholm, entering the final year of his entry-level contract, agreed in August to a two-year extension that will pay $2.5 million in the 2016-17 season and $2.9 million in 2017-18. Some might call that a bargain price considering his potential, but Lindholm shrugged off such talk, saying, “I’m going to be here for the next three years and that’s good to know.”
While the Canes invited 57 players to training camp, including 32 forwards, the numbers will be pared in short order. There were three group sessions Friday, with the first two groups scrimmaging, and another three group practices will be held Saturday beginning at 8:45 a.m.
“I was up at 6 a.m., ready to get this thing going,” Ward said Friday. “First practice, it was high tempo, fast pace. Guys were flying out there.
“These last few summers have been too long. We talked about it in the team meeting, that we want to have a shorter summer upcoming.”
Lindholm is hoping to make that happen, saying, “We’ve got something good going on here. Guys look hungry.”
NOTE: The Canes announced Friday that 81 regular-season games will be carried by their regional network – 70 games on Fox Sports Carolinas and 11 on Fox Sports Southeast (formerly SportSouth). Carolina’s Jan. 26 game against Chicago will be televised NBC Sports Network – the Canes’ only national telecast.