Where should Elias Lindholm play in the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup?

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
Elias Lindholm has been out of the Vancouver Canucks lineup with an apparent wrist injury since March 25th. It was hard for Canucks fans to gauge the severity of the injury as it was first declared a maintenance day, which he played the next game against his former team Calgary Flames. Lindholm would miss the next Canucks practice for another maintenance day, followed by this lengthy absence.
However, a Lindholm return seems to be on the horizon, as he was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice
“In my case, I tried to battle through it, but I couldn’t do it anymore,” Lindholm said when describing his injury. “It was a good time to let it heal and hopefully get back on the ice pretty soon.”
Since his injury, the Canucks have middled out with a 3-4 record. The most notable area they’ve struggled without Lindholm is on the penalty kill. The Lindholm-less penalty kill has allowed nine powerplay goals on 26 opportunities, killing the penalty at a 65.38% clip.
To put this dip into perspective for you: in the 22 games with Lindholm in the lineup, the penalty kill had a 78.46% success rate – this includes that horrid game against the Minnesota Wild, where the Canucks allowed four powerplay goals on six penalties, three of which were at 5-on-3. 
If we were to take that outlier out of the equation, the penalty kill skyrockets up to 83.05% with Lindholm as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. With all this in mind, it’s safe to say the team has missed the defensive prowess of their most recent trade acquisition.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Lindholm replied when asked about his status for their upcoming game against the Arizona Coyotes. “I feel pretty good, so hopefully, I can get back pretty soon.”
Rick Tocchet would also meet with the media to discuss Lindholm’s current status. “He’s day to day. Possible for tomorrow, but he’s getting close.”
The Canucks Head Coach was also asked about where Lindholm would fit in the lineup come playoff time, and his response:
“We’ve been tinkering with different ideas. It’s an evolving process to figure it out. I think he could play the wing sometimes, but to me, he’s a really good centreman.” 
Well, Rick, why don’t I try to help you with your decision here?

Where should Lindholm play when he returns?

Since Lindholm joined the club, Tocchet has moved him around a lot, hoping to find a trio that sticks. Unfortunately, that’s been easier said than done. 
Here are the top five line configurations with Lindholm. 
*All stats and analytics are at 5-on-5. 
It’s not a surprise for Canucks fans to notice that Lindholm has struggled offensively since the trade. But there is one outlier here where you can see a boost in offensive production.
When the all-Swedish line of Nils Höglander, Elias Pettersson and Lindholm was put together, they had the highest goal differential and the best analytics compared to the other line pairings. 
The trio had the highest shots for percentage (SF%) and the second-highest scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) – indicating that this line produced more offensively than they allowed defensively. 
So why stray away from this?
What do you think about this top 9 configuration?
One last thing I want to note:
Earlier, I quoted Tocchet when he said that Lindholm can play the wing, but he thinks he’s a really good centreman. 
Well, why not keep Lindholm at centre and move Pettersson to the wing?
When Tocchet needs a spark and sends out the Lotto Line, he has no problem throwing Pettersson on the wing. So why the hesitation with Lindholm?
However, the team is playing well with their current lines, and Tocchet may hesitate to tinker with that.
Given his recent play, putting Suter back up into the top six may be a stretch. He has just one point and a -3 rating over his last 11 games. But maybe reuniting him with a line he was successful with earlier this season could get him out of his slump.
When playoff time rolls around, teams usually shorten their bench by rolling just three lines. Stanley Cup-contending teams typically have two scoring lines followed by a solid shutdown line.
Now, Canucks fans know that Lindholm hasn’t been the offensive threat they were hoping for since the trade, so the Canucks may have to play into that by giving him the shutdown role.
In this lineup, the Canucks can keep their current top-six together while having elite centre depth and a solid shutdown line that can play against opponents’ top lines.
Mikheyev and Suter are trusted on the penalty kill, so adding them to a line with one of the team’s best penalty killers could be a problem for the opposition’s elite scorers.
Mikheyev is somewhat familiar with Lindholm, having played 58:31 minutes of 5-on-5 together. Pettersson earlier this season spoke about how much he liked playing with Suter, as he has centre experience to help cover for the F3 (defensive forward) position. This will allow Lindholm to experience more offensively, knowing that Suter has him covered in a pinch.
And if Suter continues to struggle, throwing the hard-hitting Sam Lafferty for some grit on their line would work, too – as shown in their impressive analytics above.
Now, I’m not sure how often we’d see this lineup, as the Canucks will likely want to spread out their lines. But, if Tocchet needs a spark, he’s never hesitant to throw the Lotto Line back together.
Here, the Lotto Line and third line are reunited, and there’s an extra boost of offence with Höglander on his wing.
Where do you want to see Elias Lindholm slotted in when he makes his return to the Canucks lineup? As it looks like he’ll make it in tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
With Höglander and Pettersson in hopes of giving him an offensive spark? As a secondary scoring option with Höglander and Mikheyev? Or on the third line, with Mikheyev and Suter in more of a defensive role?
Let me know, Canucks fans!

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