International Ice Hockey Federation

Lindell learning as he goes

Lindell learning as he goes

D-man one of two Finnish newcomers

Published 04.05.2015 13:35 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Lindell learning as he goes
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 1: Finland's Esa Lindell #7 turns to follow the play with USA's Torey Krug #47 chasing during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Finland has always relied on its defencemen to effectively move the puck. This year will be no different.

Of the eight defencemen on Finland’s roster here at the 2015 IIHF World Championships, two are making their tournament debut, including Ässät Pori star Esa Lindell.

In his first game with the senior team, Lindell logged 18:05 in ice time on 23 shifts and added two shots on goal. Despite a 5-1 loss to the Americans, the Vantaa native was pleased to have the chance to represent Finland. 

“It feels great playing at this level but very disappointing since we lost.” He said. “You always want the win. I feel good. The last couple of weeks we’ve had camps and two games per week so it is not so bad but now it is going to be about ten games in seventeen days so that will be interesting.”

The 2014-15 season was an important and productive one for Lindell. In 57 games with Ässät Pori, he scored 14 goals and 35 points. Not only did his scoring numbers lead defenceman on the team but the league itself making Lindell the youngest blueliner to lead the SM-Liiga in scoring.

He was also the workhorse of his team and the league in averaging a little less than 25 minutes per game.

“I think from the U20 tournament last season when we won gold I gained a lot of confidence.” Lindell said. “Last summer I put in a lot of work to gain five kilos. I felt bigger and stronger. Then I got a big role with Assat and my confidence went up even more because of it. Now it is up even more since I’m playing here with the national team. More ice time was the biggest thing to help me get better.”

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Taking note of Lindell’s performance was the Dallas Stars who drafted him 74th overall in 2012. In recent years the Stars have had some success drafting and developing European defencemen. John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka were both rookies with the NHL club this season. Jokipakka is the other defenceman making his debut for Finland in this tournament.

When Ässät Pori’s season ended, the Stars brought Lindell to North America to play with the Texas Stars, their AHL minor league affiliate, before taking part in Finland’s training camp. In five games, Lindell picked up an assist then left to prepare for the World Championships.

“Not so bad.” Lindell said of his time in Texas. “I was in the Travers City tournament before the season started so I kind of knew what to expect. It was easier to play, I think, having some understanding of the hockey, the ice and off ice.”

Finland has always relied on talented blueliners on the national team who have been mainstays and reasons for Suomi success. Very few did it better than Petteri Nummelin, who is the mold for all who come after him.

A hallmark of make Finnish defencemen has been their ability to make an effective first pass out of their zone and anchor the power play. Lindell is expected to fill that role in the years to come.

While not a physical player, Lindell is not afraid to jump into the offense and generate opportunities as evidenced by his production with Ässät Pori. 

Internationally, Lindell played on the Finnish U20 team that won the 2014 gold medal in Malmö, Sweden. He scored two goals and five points in seven games.

“That was an unbelievable experience. We had such a good team. I think we won because we had so many really talented players. 

Last night against Denmark, Lindell registered his first point of the tournament with an assist.

Two games in, Lindell can’t predict anything that will happen in this tournament except that Norway is next. Tonight.

“New day, new game.”


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