Flames' Elias Lindholm adjusting to life without old linemates

Ryan Leslie and Eric Francis discuss why Tyler Toffoli would be a natural fit on the Flames top line due to the departure of Matthew Tkachuk, how Dillon Dube is turning heads on and off the ice wit his work ethic.

CALGARY – There had to be moments this summer when Calgary Flames centre Elias Lindholm wondered if it was something he said.

After anchoring the NHL’s hottest line last season, the Swedish star watched from overseas this summer as both his linemates took turns departing the organization.

And while Flames fans rejoiced when Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were replaced by the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri, the orphaned centre knew he’d return to Calgary with plenty of unknowns surrounding his new wingers.

While the hockey world is expecting the man on his left will be Huberdeau, coach Darryl Sutter said a few weeks ago the first piece of the puzzle will be determining if the longtime Panthers playmaker fits better with Lindholm or Kadri.

Huberdeau, Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli have spent the first three days of camp together, and while all three are optimistic they’ll find chemistry together, Lindholm shrugged when asked if he’s felt it yet.

“Honestly, the drills we're doing out there, it's tough to create the chemistry, " he said.

"But he’s a good player and good players are easy to play with. It'll be kind of fun to get games going soon. And we'll see from there.”

The trio didn’t get much going in Saturday's scrimmage and is hoping to start the process Sunday night when the Flames host Vancouver to open the pre-season with a split-squad game.

So, what’s the key to trying to find some semblance of the magic Lindholm had with his previous pals?

“Just have fun out there, get it going and get Johnny used to the new system and stuff like that,” said Lindholm, who had a career-high 42 goals and 82 points last season.

“You can tell he’s a top player in the league, with that extra poise with the puck and making plays. He seems like a real nice guy, too. I’m excited to start with him.”

Sutter believes part of building that chemistry involves getting to know one another off the ice as well.

“It’s no different than having your friends at school – same idea,” said the coach.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since the club’s summertime calamity, Lindholm was asked what he thought of losing both his wingers.

“It was a rollercoaster for sure,” he laughed.

“Obviously Johnny had an opportunity to go somewhere else and Chucky wanted a new challenge and to try something else. That’s the NHL, that’s the business part of it.

“I thought the management did a really good job to put us in a good position and have a really good team this year again.”

BIG FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Flames have their first standout of training camp, and not just because he’s six-foot-eight and 245 pounds.

Adam Klapka picked up from where he left off at the team’s prospect camp by opening Saturday's first red and white scrimmage with a snipe that had the dozens in attendance murmuring.

Entering the offensive zone with plenty of speed, the towering right winger stuttered the defenceman with a sweet move before roofing a snapper short side on Dustin Wolf, a netminder he has 75 pounds on.

The sequence had everyone on Team White’s bench buzzing.

“He was pretty awesome out in Penticton too -- he was the best player in that camp for our group,” said Sutter of the 22-year-old Czech winger, who was signed to a two-year entry level deal this summer.

“For a big man he moves really well. Usually big guys like that, when you think of NHLers that size, a lot of times it takes two or three years for their skating to catch up with their body, and vice versa. Right now that doesn’t appear to be an issue.”
Shockingly high praise from the boss.

Klapka was signed in May after scoring six goals and adding 12 assists in 44 games for Bili Tygri Liberec of the Czech Republic League.

Prior to that, the undrafted Prague native spent two seasons with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL.

As green as he is, no one is expecting him to challenge for an NHL roster spot this season, but his size and right shot make him an intriguing add for the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers this year.

SCRIMMAGE NOTES

The game ended 2-1, with Clark Bishop and Sonny Milano scoring for Team Red, with Cody Eakin making a nice play behind the net to set up Milano, his fellow PTO participant. Klapka’s goal was the lone marker for Team White … Goalies Dan Vladar, Oscar Dansk and Wolf rotated at both ends of the ice throughout the scrimmage, including several changes on the fly ... After a full period of 5-on-5 play the two teams played a shorter second period of 4-on-4 before returning to 5-on-5 for an abbreviated third … Nikita Zadorov drew plenty of attention with his physicality, while Klapka’s goal and hands stood out in the skill department … Matthew Phillips, who is still listed at an unfathomable 140 pounds, still has the silkiest of mitts, and is a pleasure to watch with the puck … Notables who didn’t dress included Chris Tanev and Kadri, who will be used sparingly throughout camp, as well as injured Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington (absent from camp due to personal reasons). Jacob Markstrom was also given the day off … Only a smattering of fans were in the building, as the organization held a seat purchasing event for Wranglers tickets.

SATURDAY'S LINE COMBINATIONS

Team Red
Huberdeau-Lindholm-Toffoli
Dube-Backlund-Coleman
Eakin-Zary-Milano
Sutter-Bishop-Duehr
Hanifin-Andersson
Mackey-Weegar
Poirier-Poolman

Team White
Lucic-Rooney-Ritchi
Pelletier-Ruzicka-Phillips
Pospisil-Schwindt-Lewis
McLain-Jones-Klapka
Zadorov-Meloche
Valimaki-Stone
Gilbert-DeSimone

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.
close