Eager Lindholm developing nicely under tutelage of Ducks’ Niedermayer

By Andrew Knoll

Hampus Lindholm - Anaheim Ducks

Photo: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm finished second in scoring among rookie defensemen in the 2013-14 regular season, behind Boston Bruins’ rookie defender Torey Krug (courtesy of John Cordes/Icon SMI)

He was a surprise top-10 selection at the 2012 NHL Draft, but Anaheim Ducks rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm has at times looked like a seasoned NHL veteran at the tender age of 20.

The native of Helsingborg, Sweden played in 78 games for the Ducks during the 2013-14 regular season, scoring six goals and adding 24 assists for 30 points. Lindholm also has appeared in 10 playoff games for the Ducks, picking up one assist for a Ducks team that is currently locked in a second round battle with their cross-town rival, the Los Angeles Kings.

Lindholm has seemingly matured at a rapid rate, playing in the AHL for the Norfolk Admirals in the 2012-13 season following his selection at the draft. He then put in a full season in the NHL in just his second pro season at a position that requires most players to spend at least three or four seasons deveoping their game before stepping into a full-time role.

While he has shown a strong hockey IQ since his junior days, Lindholm's rapid development has no doubt been aided by the tutoring of Ducks' assistant coach and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman, Scott Niedermayer. The former Norris Trophy winner and four-time Stanley Cup champion has so far been impressed with his student's on-ice performance.

“He’s pretty level-headed, with his emotions and that, but you can tell that he’s competitive out there,” said Niedermayer. “He wants to do well, you can see that in his game the way he fights for pucks and things like that.”

Nor has Lindholm been just a bit player learning the ropes, as he has instead taken on more responsibility and ice-time as the season has progressed. Niedermayer has so far liked the way the young defender has handled his role within the Ducks' defensive corps.

“He’s done well and I think a lot of that has to do with his disposition, where he’s not too excited and he doesn’t get too down if he has a bad game,” said Niedermayer of Lindholm. “Any challenge that the coaches have put in front of him, he’s gone out and just done his best.

“Emotionally, he’s very level. You can still see times where he’s just a young kid coming over to a new country for the last couple years. There’s a lot of great things that he has going for him, so I’m trying not to mess it up.”

Lindholm has experienced early success and developed a strong identity as a player, neither of which has stopped him from absorbing tutelage from the Ducks' coaching staff.

“It’s easy, he’s eager for it,” Niedermayer said of Lindholm's desire to learn. “He’s not a guy who thinks maybe he knows better. He’s eager for it. He comes up to me, which is a great thing.

“He asks a lot of questions about a lot of different things, which is good. It shows he’s aware, he’s thinking. As a defenseman, that is a big part of the game, putting yourself in a good position to control the game, not just react to it.”

It is not lost on Lindholm that he is fortunate to have an instructor the likes of Niedermayer. Indeed, the rookie rearguard seems intent on hanging onto each word of instruction provided by the former Ducks and New Jersey Devils defender.

“He’s helped me a lot,” said Lindholm of Niedermayer. “He’s a very, very smart guy. Everything he says makes a lot of sense, you don’t even have to overthink it. Every small detail that he can put in my game and help me out, I’m going to take it. It’s a big opportunity to have him around to help you out.”

While there is sometimes the temptation for a coach to tinker with certain aspects of a developing player's game, Niedermayer has mostly avoided doing so with Lindholm.

“He’s pretty good at letting me be me … it’s just small details that can make your game much better, much more effective,” said Lindholm.

Niedermayer is now nearly four years removed from his NHL career, one that spanned 18 seasons. But despite the passage of time, the Cranbrook, BC native hasn't forgotten the players early in his career that helped shape his own development.

“Larry Robinson (was) a big help early on,” said Niedermayer. “Then just playing alongside so many great players like (Scott) Stevens and (Ken) Daneyko, Bruce Driver, (Slava) Fetisov. As a young guy coming into the league playing with these 10-year veterans, there was a lot to be learned. So I benefited from that.”

And the learning never really stopped for Niedermayer, until he decided to call it a career.

“As a defenseman, there’s always things to learn,” admitted Niedermayer. “I felt right up to my last days that … there’s always things to learn as you’re going through this league and getting older.”

Lindholm has shown versatility, spelling the injured Cam Fowler and often playing in all situations. As he continues to develop under Niedermayer and the Ducks staff, Lindholm could be a fixture on Anaheim's blue line for seasons to come.

Follow Andrew Knoll on Twitter via @AndrewKnollNHL