The fifth round.
Lindblom went from role player to top-line producer to best forward in the Swedish Hockey League over a three-year span of impressive growth as a player. And he did it all without a lot of the hype and spotlight that comes from growing your game in North America, making him sort of an under-appreciated “secret” weapon in Ron Hextall’s loaded arsenal of prospects.
“We picked Oskar, he goes back to Europe, no one even talks about him,” Hextall said after Development Camp in July. “What does he do? He just gets better and better and better. There also wasn’t a spotlight on him. Quite frankly I wish all our kids could just go away and nobody talk about them and all of a sudden they show up three years later and, ‘Wow, this kid’s a pretty good player,’ but with social media and everything else nowadays you can’t hide them.”
“Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, just a fifth-round pick over there getting better and better and all of a sudden, BANG, he’s the SHL forward of the year.”
And that’s the beauty of both a hidden gem of a prospect overseas and a slow-boiling pot of picks that were allotted their fair share of time to mature and develop; they’re all coming for a roster spot and the franchise is welcoming them with open arms.
Lindblom’s development curve has been fun to watch, mostly from afar, and it’s hard to say that anyone predicted he’d get to this level at this age. The SHL is not a league where it’s commonplace for young players to soak up minutes in all situations, take over games and finish as the fourth-highest scorer and best forward overall.
His 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) were mighty impressive for the now-21-year-old, and he solidified his status a bit by not missing a beat in a short stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms two seasons ago. In eight games with the Phantoms to end that season, Lindblom had two goals and five assists while adjusting to the North American game.
“The biggest difference is the pace. The game is faster over here, especially in the NHL, so you have to think and react quicker,” Linblom said via NHL.com. “To be honest, it wasn’t a lot of games I was with the Phantoms but I think it went pretty good.”
Lindblom is on track to earn himself a roster spot should his camp performance match his abilities. He knows what he has to accomplish over the next few weeks and is eager for his opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing in the NHL.
“The NHL is the best league in the world and I know I have to earn a chance to play with the Flyers,” Lindblom said. “I think every player dreams to play in the NHL. It’s a big challenge but I feel like I am ready now to compete for the chance.”
The Swede signed his entry-level deal this summer and is finished with his time overseas, so he’ll either be with the Flyers or Phantoms come October. He’s prepared for life with either squad.
“I’ll play wherever they think is best. If it’s the farm team, I will do my best to work my way up.”
The scenario creates a different beast for Hextall and the Flyers, who have opted with the cautious route and sent players back to the Phantoms in most cases instead of having them in the NHL too early. It doesn’t cost the team much if they have to send a player down, knowing they’re one phone call away should an injury occur or the prospect is just playing too well to ignore.
However, this year just feels different.
Brayden Schenn was shipped out of town during the draft in June because he became expendable with the addition of Nolan Patrick and the current state of the franchise’s prospect pool. He had value and Hextall got value for him while he could, but his scoring does need to be replaced.
Lindblom, the winger who can play either side, would help offset the scoring touch lost over the summer as well. He has a knack for scoring in tight areas and could be a great addition to either power play unit should he be a Flyer after camp. While not without competition, right now it feels like Patrick and Lindblom are both clear-cut favorites to win jobs should they not fail miserably during camp.
Here’s a glimpse of what Lindblom brings on offense, from Game 7 of the semi-finals last season with Brynas. Lindblom had three points (two goals, one assist) in that game to propel Brynas to the finals where they would lose in 7 games.
He assisted on the first goal, stepping into the high-danger area from below the goal line with a slick move and slamming the puck into the crease. Teammate Juuso Ikonen put home the juicy rebound after the stickwork by Lindblom.
His first goal of the night was in tight as he settled a bouncing rebound and tucked the puck home to expand his team’s lead. Too smooth.
Lindblom’s final point of the night was a quick wrister to all but seal the trip to the finals for Brynas.
In years past, it would seem like a longshot to have multiple rookies join a unit at once, but the Flyers are looking at doing just that with both the forward and defensive groups this year. Hextall knows that, while technically rookies, the players that the Flyers are looking at bringing into the fold are mostly 20 and 21-year-old developed hockey minds and bodies.
“Don’t forget, our young players aren’t 18 and 19-year-olds. Our young players are seasoned. That’s why I’m comfortable not signing veterans right now because those guys are seasoned,” Hextall said. “They’ve gotten time in the American League. A guy like Lindblom played at a high level… These guys, they’re not young players coming out of college or junior who have no pro experience and we’re not sure what they’re going to give us.”
Linblom is undoubtedly a developed player, with a vast improvement in his skating noticeable from draft day to this point. He’s still hungry to improve.
“I think my skating can still get better. I’m still training this summer to get quicker and get a little stronger,” said Lindblom. “To play in the NHL, I think, these are things I can work on. You have to be good in all areas to get the time you need.”
The talented forward is mature for his age both on and off the ice, making the tough career choice to avoid his entry-level contract last summer and North American hockey for one more year to make sure he was 100% ready when he did finally arrive in the States.
And he is ready. If Lindblom plays his strong two-way game at the level he’s capable of during camp, we think there’s a very good chance that he sticks with the Flyers for 82+ games starting in October.
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