(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

If it were up to Elias Lindholm, he’d probably play an entire 82-game season against the San Jose Sharks.

Though it may be too little, too late, the Carolina Hurricanes have finally won since the Olympic Break, an impressive 3-2 overtime thriller on the last stretch of their California road trip. With the trade deadline looming, all eyes were on high profile veterans who may be on the move. But it was the 19-year-old rookie who again stole the show.

In the ‘Canes pair of wins against the Sharks, Lindholm has racked up 5 points (2G, 3A) and has looked every bit the part that warranted his fifth overall selection in last summer’s NHL draft. During the first matchup, he spearheaded a four-goal, third period onslaught. Last night, he tied notched another goal and assisted on the overtime game winner.

Each game was played on the wing of one of the Staals. First Jordan, and now on the Hurricanes’ top line.

“He’s a good little player,” said Jordan Staal. “When he got the opportunity to play with Eric, you could tell he was excited and that he’s been playing well ever since he’s been up on that line. Such a smart player, great passer, and sees the ice so well.”

In the second period, Lindholm’s enthusiasm turned into something tangible; he tied the game by finding a soft spot in the defense, putting home an Eric Staal pass from behind the net. Though Staal and Andrej Sekera did most of the dirty work, goaltender Alex Stalock had no chance on the blistering shot.

“Lindy, he’s really coming on,” said Kirk Muller. “For a young kid, it’s been a process this year. He first got hurt, then he got healthy. Played in the World Junior. Now his ice time is increasing. We’re using him in defensive roles, offensive roles — that’s the type of guy that we knew we wanted when we drafted him. Big goal from him today, and his game is just getting stronger and stronger.”

After Jiri Tlusty opened the scoring halfway through the first period, converting on a breakaway opportunity and giving the ‘Canes their first lead of the five-game road trip, they still had some let down left in them for the fans who stayed up for the 10:30 p.m. Eastern start. The advantage lasted just 58 seconds after some adventurous wandering by newly extended goaltender Anton Khudobin led to two easy San Jose goals, and a first intermission deficit.

Then it was time for Lindholm to go to work.

A furious 3rd period saw the Sharks put up 16 shots on Khudobin, but none made their way past him. In overtime, it was Carolina that had the majority of opportunities, eventually converting after Lindholm gathered a Sekera rebound and made a nifty behind-the-back pass that even Jay Harrison couldn’t miss. It was somewhat reminiscent of a similar pass made by a year ago Alexander Semin, whom Lindholm bumped from the ‘Canes first line.

That’s not an indictment of Semin by any means, who had a strong game himself, and looks comfortable and faster next to Jordan Staal. Rather, it indicates a growing trust in Lindholm.

Given the lack of other options on the right side — Patrick Dwyer and Tuomo Ruutu don’t inspire much top-six confidence right now — Lindholm’s development is an important story going forward. Though he was drafted as a center, he’s unlikely to displace either of the Staals, and is projected to be too good to be relegated to the third line in the long run. A transition to wing yields the way for Victor Rask to eventually take over a depth center position, and his game is more suited toward that role.

With a number of Hurricanes potentially playing their final game with the franchise, Lindholm’s drafting an early resume to be included in the new core moving forward — and likely a permanent fixture in the top-six.

“There’s a lot of speculation in this room right now. A lot of guys’ minds can be drifting right now. It was nice, to be honest, just to get out on the ice and play,” Staal said. “I think that line was really solid for us, and Lindy had a great game.”

About The Author

Andrew Luistro graduated from Appalachian State University. An avid sports fan, he began beat writing for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal, part of The Hockey Writers Network, with a focus on the Carolina Hurricanes. Andrew also actively follows the Boston Red Sox and Carolina Panthers, among other teams. Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7

One Response

  1. dabrams2021

    SunbeltHockey it was obvious from Day 1 training camp Lindholm & Skinner needed to be a duo in top 6.