2016 World Cup of Hockey: Stars’ Lindell looking to improve upon short NHL stint

By Sean Shapiro
Esa Lindell - Texas Stars

Photo: Texas Stars defenseman and Dallas Stars prospect Esa Lindell is a veteran of international play, and will represent Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (courtesy of Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Esa Lindell will represent Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.

The Dallas Stars prospect and 21-year-old defenseman was confident his play at the 2015 IIHF World Championship combined with his first season with the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars was enough to impress the Finnish brass.

“I didn’t get the news this morning. I found out a couple days earlier, actually,” Lindell said when the selection was announced last week. “I kind of knew like there was a chance to get in team, because there’s not so many (Finnish) D-men playing in the NHL or in the AHL. But, it surprised me get in the first 16 players, but of course that’s nice.”

Lindell was the only non-NHL player selected to Finland’s preliminary World Cup roster, and the defenseman has been one of the AHL’s top defenders with Texas. Often paired with Stephen Johns, another rising defensive prospect, Lindell has played big minutes for the Stars.

Time on ice isn’t an official statistic in the AHL, but Texas head coach Derek Laxdal has said that Lindell and Johns average more than 24 minutes per game. The duo plays in all situations, while Lindell is +11 and has 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 59 AHL games.

That performance earned Lindell an AHL All-Star appearance and his first NHL call-up.

“The season here has been great so far, like except the four games in the NHL,” Lindell said. “I know I can play a lot better than I played there.”

Lindell was -3 in his four games with Dallas and made a couple rookie mistakes. However, Dallas general manager Jim Nill said he was pleased with Lindell’s progress and expects the Finn to compete for a roster spot next season.

And that is the attitude Nill wants Lindell to take from his time in Dallas. Many AHL players make their NHL debut and are pleased or excited after the opportunity, but those who are self-critical tend to succeed.

Lindell said he won’t make the same mistakes in his next chance with Dallas, and he has applied those lessons in the AHL since returning to Texas’ top pairing.

“Lindy’s a big, strong man and he’s taken a big role with our team,” Laxdal said. “He and (Johns) are a future NHL pairing, and you just see the way they approach the game. They aren’t going to be here (in Texas) very long, and that’s good for Dallas’ future.”

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