As a general rule, I am not the sort of Canes fan who likes to dwell on choices made by past members of the Hurricanes front office or coaching staff, other than to reflect on them as learning opportunities for the future. But occasionally an instance comes along where I am unable to shake the dissatisfaction. Until recently, the 2013 NHL Draft had been one of those instances.

In a draft stacked with talent at forward, and having narrowly missed out on a higher pick in a lockout-shortened season, the Canes took Elias Lindholm over Sean Monahan with the fifth overall pick.

Let’s take a cursory look at how that’s panned out.

   

If I were a particularly salty individual, I would tell you that one of these players centers Johnny Gaudreau on a team that is currently in the playoffs. The other, though he was drafted as a center, plays right wing with Jordan Staal and Victor Rask and is boarding a plane to Sweden for the summer as we speak. Luckily, I am not going to tell you that. Mostly because “it’s been four years, Meg. Get over it.”

I’m over it.

OK, maybe not. Even in the early parts of this season, I was not quiet about my dissatisfaction with the performance of a fifth overall pick who seemed to possess potential for serious creativity and offensive firepower but could never muster the consistency. I mean, look at this marvelous goal. And this lovely assist in a sequence from last season.

One of the greatest concerns fans had about Lindholm was that he wasn’t strong enough on the puck to clear the net-front traffic and create the space he needed to make those stellar plays. Combine that with his habit of over-passing and his tendency to disappear for huge stretches of time, and it made for some disappointing results in previous seasons.

Despite the reports that came out in the offseason of 2016 of Lindholm’s increased workout regimen, it looked like we were in for much of the same this year, especially while Coach Peters was testing him out at center. The first half of the ’16-’17 season saw him go 0-4-4 until November 20th. This provoked conversations involving a word that often comes up when you don’t see a fifth overall NHL pick put a puck in a net for 16 games. In fact, in the 30 games Lindholm played between October and January, he scored four goals and nine assists, which averages out to a pace of 35 points over an 82-game season. Had he maintained that pace, it would have been his lowest production since his rookie year.

But in late December, when Lindholm was sidelined with a concussion, the lack of his presence was substantial. And after he returned, the breakout began. In the 42 games he played (primarily back at right wing) between January and April, Lindholm scored seven goals and 25 assists, with most of the latter being primary assists. That averages out to a pace of 62 points for an 82-game season.

Oh, and he also had a 10 game point streak — the longest of his career.

Unfortunately, players don’t get to modify sample sizes in order to boost their stats. But even with the slow start, Lindholm hit a career high in points and assists.

He ended ’16-’17 as one of only seven Canes players to have 40 or more points, and he joins Victor Rask and Jordan Staal with a respectable 45 points on the season. What I find most interesting is the drastic improvement in plus minus between this season and last. As a statistic, plus minus might not move the needle for you, but it’s hard to downplay going from a -23 to a -2 in the course of a year.

And to top it off, he’s playing for Team Sweden in the 2017 IIHF World Championships.

He has room for improvement in the goal-scoring department, but it’s time to stop comparing Lindholm to his draft peers and start appreciating him for the assist machine he can be. He’s a 22-year-old forward who can, with consistent strength training and consistent line placement, continue to trend in the right direction. Barring anything catastrophic, he has a long future ahead of him in the NHL, and I look forward to seeing him in the sightless eye for many years to come.

All I ask is that you please not hide any more of this scoring prowess from us, Lindy.

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