In his NHL career, Elias Lindholm has been a productive goal scorer.
That’s the first thing to understand about the newest Vancouver Canuck.
He has been an NHLer for a decade, first skating in 58 games for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013-14. That was a light-scoring season, but over the 792 games he has played in the past decade, he’s averaged 22 goals per season.
But there is more to Lindholm than just scoring, and that’s why the Canucks were so interested in adding him to the roster.
Let’s take a look at why.
There is a lot of banter about how Lindholm being a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward in 2022 was a product of him centring Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau that season.
That no doubt did have an impact. They were one of the NHL’s best lines.
But it can’t be ignored that last season, after his two star wingers left, Lindholm’s impact on puck possession persisted. When he was on the ice in 2022-23, the Flames took 56.1 per cent of the shot attempts.
As a line, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Gaudreau were on ice at five-on-five for 73 goals for and just 31 against.
In Vancouver, Lindholm is widely expected to at least start on a line with Elias Pettersson. Pettersson is a strong two-way player in his own right — this season, he’s been on the ice for 42 Canucks goals for at five-on-five and the opposition has scored just 28 goals against in the same time.
There is a very impressive top-line stat for Lindholm: In Calgary, he’s been a very consistent goal scorer. Two seasons ago, he had an outlandish 42-goal year, playing between Tkachuk and Gaudreau.
That’s his career high.
But even after you take away that season, EP Rinkside’s Dimitri Filipovic has pointed out, he has still averaged 28 goals per season in Calgary. And that’s been off a totally reasonable 14.5-per-cent shooting percentage.
He is a quality shooter.
Lindholm can score, but he’s been incredibly unlucky with his finishing this season. At five-on-five, he has scored on just 4.8 per cent of his shots, the first time in six years he has been below even 10 per cent.
He’s been an outstanding finisher since leaving Carolina in 2018, and with Vancouver’s high-octane offence, he will see plenty of chances to finish.
Given how far below his historical scoring trend he has been this season, he’s due to go on a scoring binge, even before factoring in how good the Canucks have been at creating — and burying — quality chances.
It is a little concerning to see his overall shot share has dipped this season to just 46 per cent.
Context does matter. The Flames as a group have not had a good season, and obviously Lindholm has not been immune to this.
But over the past month or so he had been playing on an offensive-minded line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich, and they had been controlling 51 per cent of the shots taken with them on the ice.
Now, as mentioned, Lindholm has been very unlucky in his finishing recently — he has just one goal since Christmas. He had only three in December.
It’s not like he isn’t getting shots, he just hasn’t been able to finish.
It also didn’t help that he was seemingly stuck in his own zone endlessly.
The hope for Vancouver is that he will be the player he has been for the last five years, and not the player who’s struggled so much this season.
Finally, Lindholm is a very adept faceoff taker.
He has won 56 per cent of the five-on-five draws he’s taken this year, very much in line with his historical trend.
Since 2016-17, he has had just one season where he’s won less than half of his draws, otherwise he is well over 50 per cent.
A right-shot, he will bring a different element to the faceoff circle. J.T. Miller is a left shot, but is adept at beating both left- and right-handed opposition centres. Having a top centre who comes from the opposite side will be a powerful tool.
Not every faceoff is important, but some, such as on the man advantage, really do matter.