Alex Appleyard provides weekly updates of Flyers prospects in Europe here at Sons of Penn. You can find him on Twitter at @avappleyard for live updates and conversation regarding the young guns overseas and the big club here at home in Philadelphia.
This week has been a good one for the Flyers forward prospects plying their trade in Europe. There have really been no negative occurrences or trends apart from minor set-backs, and most of the prospects have either had great weeks or seen their roles expand.
Oskar Lindblom (forward)
The big Swedish winger has dominated in the SHL this year. Over the last week, he has shown no signs that he is going to stop either. Lindblom has played two games for Brynäs since the last update; both games came against the Northern Swedish club Luleå in a home and home double header.
The first game for Lindblom was on Thursday, away from home in an arena less than seventy miles from the Arctic Circle. In freezing weather, he lit it up, starting strong and never fading throughout the game. He put his side 1-0 up late in the first period on a play that he started and subsequently finished. Lindblom got the puck and skated hard up the left wing, putting his side on a partial 2v1, with line-mate Clark getting close to the crease the future Flyer feathered a pass for a back-door play. An opposition defenseman prevented a slam-dunk by getting a piece of it, but Clark still put the puck on net, and the rebound was slammed home by Lindblom from the edge of the crease.
Brynäs then stumbled through the second period, conceding three consecutive goals via sloppy defense and poor net minding from Rautio. The top line of Lindblom – Jensen – Clark was one of the only bright spots in the second period. They buzzed, got a few jam plays, had some good shots denied and generally dominated the possession and cycle game. Nothing new really!
However, whatever coach Berglund said in the second intermission sparked the East Coast team. At the halfway point of the third, they had clawed the game back to within a goal, trailing 4-3. Lindblom had also had a quick wrist-shot denied, and his line had continued to look dangerous every time they hit the ice. Their offensive play would not have to wait much longer to be rewarded.
Jumping on the ice for a partial change with less than seven minutes left Lindblom got the puck near the blue-line and passed it to 2017 draft eligible Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist held the puck on the wall and Lindblom drove towards net. The two-way winger managed to work his way into space in the right circle, got the puck back and fired a beauty of a wrister just inside the post to tie the game up 4-4.
From there on out Lindblom hardly came off the ice. At the end of regulation and the 3v3 overtime the young Gävle native had played 23:27 and had seven shots on goal, and he was not yet finished. Picked to go second in the shoot-out after line-mate Clark had already scored Lindblom helped seal the victory and important points with a quick wrist-shot that beat the opposition goalie clean. It was a game where Lindblom did everything, and was justly rewarded.
Two days later against the same opponent, Lindblom was not quite as dominant. Through two periods he played well, helping to create several chances – including three shots of his own – and playing solid two-way hockey. He was also partially involved in a goal, creating a decoy for Lucas Carlsson to carve into the slot and score in the first period. His best chance to score came in the second period, he rushed up ice and fired a quick wrist-shot on the opposition goalie, who got a small piece of the puck to turn in just past the post. However, Lindblom would not play much more of a role in the game. In the third period, he left the ice in apparent discomfort, and after the game assistant coach and ex-NHLer Tommy Sjödin told the media he had sustained a minor injury.
The next day it was announced that Lindblom had been withdrawn from the Swedish National team squad for the Swedish Hockey games – due to start on Thursday – due to his injury. Call me a cynic, but I would be shocked if Lindblom were not fit and ready to play upon the resumption of the SHL season on the 14 of February. Had he gone to the tournament the youngster would have been subject to a gruelling schedule for the rest of February, with 10 games in 20 days, 7 in 10 is much more manageable. Brynäs management will surely be happy Lindblom can rest up and help them solidify their league standing as the season winds down.
SHL: 41 games, 16 goals, 21 assists, 37 points, +13
Mikhail Vorobyov (forward)
With the KHL schedule winding down as the regular season comes to a close Vorobyov has not played too much recently, with the diminishing schedule coming just as he came back from a concussion. However, some good news – when the big Russian center has played his minutes have been significant.
In his first two games back from injury – discussed in last week’s update – he was played sparingly at fourth line center. However, in the two games over the last week Vorobyov has lined up at second line center and seen over fifteen minutes of ice time in both games. The result of both games were resounding defeats for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, but the young future Flyer acquitted himself well over the two games. As match-ups go, you cannot get much tougher.
Last Wednesday Salavat faced off against SKA and then two days later against CSKA. The NHL equivalent would be played the Penguins one game and Capitals the next. CSKA and SKA are currently first and second in the KHL standings, and it would be a surprise if anyone but them won the Gagarin Cup as the play-off champion.
Despite the tough opposition and games with a combined 2-8 score line for Salavat, Vorobyov played over fifteen minutes in both games, had three shots and was even in plus-minus. Against two teams that could compete with their NHL counterparts that is not bad going. Now, it must be said that Vorobyov’s promotion was not totally down to the coach’s decision. His hand was forced due to injuries. However, with Vorobyov putting in a solid showing during his ‘promotion’ it would be no surprise if he maintained a bigger role once injuries heal.
With that being said, Vorobyov’s season lasting much longer is no given. Salavat only have two games left in the season – to be played on the 14th and 18th of February – and are only three points inside the playoffs. That may seem safe enough, but when it is factored in that a regulation KHL win is worth three points, and the teams behind them have a game in hand, the team from Bashkortostan will almost certainly have to pick up more points over their final two games to ensure the continuation of their season.
And if they crash out before the playoffs start? Well, Vorobyov could be in North America sooner than expected. He has still not signed a new KHL deal, and his contract expires at the end of April. It would not be crazy for him to sign an ELC after his contract expires and join the Phantoms during the play-offs.
KHL: 42gp, 3g, 7a, 10pts, -1
David Kaše (forward)
As was stated last week, Kaše is currently spending time up and down between the top Czech men’s league – the Extraliga – and the second tier – the WSM liga. Parent club Piráti Chomutov has achieved this by loaning him out to home-town club SK Kadan, a little over 10 miles away, on days they don’t play. This has given him a chance to play both center and wing with regularity, while also giving him extra minutes at a point in the season where roster concerns out of his control have led to a more limited role for him with Piráti.
This has meant that the dynamic Czech forward has played five games over the last week. In the second tier, he picked up two goals and an assist across three games while playing heavy minutes. However, points at that level are to be expected for Kaše. He showed last year he was a force to be reckoned with in the WSM liga as he rattled off 14 points in the 16 games he played.
What is more interesting is his role at the big club. After a month of playing generally a limited, fourth line center role by default Piráti went a different route this week. They instead stacked their top nine and basically rolled three lines. In the first game of the week this strategy was not kind to the future Flyer. He played less than three minutes at fourth line center. However, some background to that – he had already played the day before for SK Kadan on the first line – it is unlikely either club wanted him to be overworked.
Two days later though against Czech powerhouse Sparta Prague, Kaše saw an increase in ice-time as a member of the third line, while also seeing some shifts at fourth line center. The man from Kadan has already proven this year he is a more than capable top six player in the Extraliga, and were it not for Chomutov’s excess of top six wingers he would be in a full-time second line role.
He did not quite get the minutes against Sparta he saw earlier in the season – seeing just under ten minutes of ice time – but he did take advantage of the small promotion. With his side 2-0 down with fifteen minutes left in the game he sprung a line-mate with a nice stretch pass from his own zone that resulted in a partial breakaway and a goal. The final result was an over-time loss, but hopefully his showing encourages the coaching staff to move the youngster back to the second line right wing spot that he excelled in at the start of the season.
There are only seven games left in the Extraliga season, with Piráti battling to secure an automatic playoff spot and avoid having to go through the preliminary ‘play-in’ round. Let us hope Kaše is helping that push in a top nine role as opposed to seeing 4C duties with limited line-mates.
Extraliga: 25gp, 3g, 6a, 9p, +0
WSM Liga: 7gp, 4g, 2a, 6p, -2
Stay tuned for the second half of the weekly update focusing on the defensemen and goalies.
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