Hampus Lindholm had a lot of question marks surrounding him before he made his NHL debut. The initial drama was taking him 6th overall in 2012. A move that shocked many but the Ducks were lauded for being aggressive. Something that has impressed me is the Ducks drafting in the past few years. They pick players that fill their needs and fit their system. There may have been better players available but none billed the strong two-way play of Hampus Lindholm. An offseason that saw numerous defensive injuries before the team even started the preseason boasted two young defenders on the cusp of making the jump to the NHL. Losing Luca Sbisa in the preseason put an even larger strain on already depleted defensive core.
Even NHL.com acknowledged the surprising comfort level and Lindholm’s ability to step right into the lineup.
Most fans knew the upside of the undersized Sami Vatanen, a powerplay quarterback and a shifty defender. Akin to a Cam Fowler but with less two way ability. Hampus Lindholm was simply a draft report card with strong indicators of future success. A concussion sidelined him from World Junior Championship play, the first chance for fans to see him in action. Lindholm didn’t make the season debut on the first night of Ducks action. That was while the insurance defender of Fistric had a chance to prove himself. With a forgettable performance Boudreau decided to mix up the lines and Lindholm got his debut in Winnipeg and hasn’t looked back since. All indications of his first 6 games show a smooth skater who handles pressure in his defensive end well. A few miscues here and there but every rookie still has rough spots in their game. The consistent pairing with Beauchemin has given the youngster the ability to join the rush. Also steady power play time shows his age, Lindholm wants to get a quick shot and doesn’t have the confidence to hold the puck to let the play develop in the offensive zone.
“I try to talk a lot with whoever I’m playing [with],” Beauchemin said. “But he’s been great. He reads the play well so sometimes he doesn’t need me to say something. He’s just going to do it. His skating ability, his puckhandling and his patience is really good. He’s going to get better as the season goes on.”
Lindholm’s strong play is something to consider but only makes for a tough situation for Bob Murray. Vatanen is too skilled for the AHL and is in the prime of molding his career. This is the year for Vatanen to make the jump. Mark Fistric was the insurance signing and could be put on waivers, but he is a good 7th defender to keep on for a league minimum in case someone needs a rehab or another injury hits the Ducks defensive corps. Lindholm has earned himself a roster spot. With Sbisa returning and his two way status it is inevitable he will be sent to Norfolk. His strong play in the NHL will grow his confidence, but will help his development even more is being a dominant force in the AHL. In the interest of keeping his entry level contract as well as the the lack of two-way contracts on the Ducks defense it is all but final. However Lindholm has won over Ducks fans it is a tough decision to send a player down when they have been so consistent. However if Sbisa ends slow out of the gate, we may see Lindholm make a return.
“My goal is to make the team, for sure. Ever since I got drafted, you’re going to work hard and try and make that dream come true. I’m lucky to be here now and I have to keep working my [rear end] off to stay here.”
One thing is for sure, with the Ducks drafting and the way the team plays there are logjams at every position. Tough decisions out of camp for the forwards with Etem still fighting for playing time. Lindholm and Vatanen proving themselves with injured defenders opening the door for them. Hiller and Fasth battling for playing time while Andersen steps in and has a sharp debut. The future does look bright with all of these talented players competing for limited roster spots.
Follow me on twitter @surreal98