Get to Know a Draft Pick: Elias Lindholm

Despite there being rumblings of the Hurricanes trading their fifth overall pick, GM Jim Rutherford opted to stay put and selected center Elias Lindholm of the Swedish Elite League. This was considered to be a pretty "safe" pick by the Hurricanes and it's a pretty smart selection on top of that. Lindholm has a very high ceiling and is less of a wild card than some of the other available picks. He is pegged as a skilled, talented two-way center and is considered by some to be the best Swedish prospect since Nicklas Backstrom. That might be setting expectations a little high, but just about every scouting service was very high on him.

Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman ranked him as the sixth best prospect in the draft and stated that he is "advanced" for his age for his ability to play big minutes in the Swedish Elite League as a teenager. Pronman also praised his two-way game and hockey sense, which should translate well to the NHL. McKeen's Hockey Guide was also very high on Lindholm, ranking him as the fourth best prospect in the drat and was a little more complimentary of his offensive skills. They say that he is very dangerous as a shooter & a passer and is very elusive on the ice. They also compared him to Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Future Considerations' scouting report was similar to Pronman's, as they mostly praised his two-way game and strong play in all three zones. They do say that he is very effective offensively and a gifted play-maker, but they do state that he lacks the "flare" of some other top forwards. That doesn't mean he will end up being a checking line player, though because Lindholm is still extremely talented and has a lot of offensive skill.

Lindholm also has a strong track record, as he played all of last year in the Swedish Elite League as an 18-year old and had 30 points in 48 games. For a kid playing against adults, that is very impressive. He also played over 16 minutes a game  so that should mean that he is relatively close to being NHL ready. Lindholm still has a contract with Brynas next year, but he has an out clause that allows him to play in the NHL next year if he makes the Hurricanes out of training camp.

Statistically, Lindholm also ranks favorably. Scott Reynolds of Copper & Blue has done a fantastic job of looking at statistical comparables for draft prospects this year and Lindholm's numbers are comparable to the likes of Henrik Sedin & Markus Naslund. That isn't to say that Lindholm will become as good as Sedin or Naslund because he is a different player, but his future looks bright regardless. 

This video of Lindholm from the World Junior Championships does a nice job of showcasing his strengths, as it shows his play both with and without the puck. Going by this video, Lindholm appears to be a "complete player" of sorts. He passes the puck extremely well, is committed in all three zones, goes to the dirty areas to score, plays the body well and is very strong along the boards. This is him playing against other kids under 20, so it might be different in the NHL, but he isn't that small for a player his age so I'm not overly concerned about that. He was also impressive against other professionals in the Swedish Elite League last year.

My take on the pick? I like it. I'm not crazy about taking another center, but Lindholm can play all three forward positions and might be good enough to make the team out of camp next year. He isn't a flashy pick like Valeri Nichuskin and he isn't that big of a player, but he is a top level prospect who is a good long-term fit for the Hurricanes. With Seth Jones off the board, there weren't any defensemen available who could step in as soon as next year, so going the safe route and taking Lindholm made sense.