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Flames Centre Lindholm Runner-Up for Selke

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If not for the legend of Patrice Bergeron, the Calgary Flames would have the franchise’s first Selke Trophy winner.

The NHL announced the “forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.” It’s voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

And while the Boston Bruins’ Bergeron was a runaway favourite, Elias Lindholm made a rapid rise into the spotlight. Some voting members openly talked about Bergeron as their choice in what may be his final season. But Lindholm found his way into their thoughts. The Calgary Flames centre finished second in the voting after a career year. The 27-year-old scored 42 goals and 82 points in 82 games on the most dominant line in the NHL. Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were lucky to have him.

What’s most remarkable about Lindholm’s progression into an elite two-way players is how he’s seamlessly transitioned from flanker to centre with the Flames.

Although he is a natural centre, he spent a lot of time on the wing in Carolina. And he started on the right side with the Flames following the blockbuster trade that brought Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to Calgary.

The Flames dabbled with Lindholm in the middle at times. But things really clicked when new head coach Darryl Sutter flipped the Swede to the middle and put Tkachuk on his off wing.

Lindholm anchored league’s best line

That trio topped the league in goal differential and was a top possession unit this season, spending more time on ice together than any other line in the league.

Lindholm often did the dirty work winning draws, retrieving pucks in his zone to start transitions, allowing Tkachuk and Gaudreau to use their creative talents to turn defence into offence.

Sutter paid him the highest compliment earlier this season when comparing Lindholm to another Selke winner he used to coach.

“He’s one of the best all-around centremen in the NHL,” Sutter said of Lindholm. “I’ve coached some good ones but he’s as close to a (Anze) Kopitar-type player as there is. A top two-way game. He plays a great possession game – he’s like a quarterback.”

Kopitar and Bergeron exclusively earned the Selke for five seasons from 2014-2018, with Bergeron winning two in a row and then flip flopping with Kopitar the next three. Bergeron’s fifth win this season is an NHL record. He first won in 2012.

Ryan O’Reilly, Sean Couturier and Aleksander Barkov started a trend of first-timers winning for three straight years. That is, before the veteran Bruin won it once again. Barkov finished third in this year’s voting.

You get the impression Lindholm’s time will come. Having Gaudreau return ahead of free agency and getting a long-term deal for Tkachuk would go a long way in ensuring Lindholm’s efforts don’t go unnoticed.

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