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Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Perpetually-overlooked Oskar Lindblom finally starting to get his due

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Oskar Lindblom was once viewed as one of the better prospects in his draft year. After two strong seasons in Sweden and a successful AHL stint, he's turning heads yet again.

Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Back in 2014, Swedish forward Oskar Lindblom was taken by the Flyers in the fifth round of the NHL Draft. The final three rounds of the draft are usually the realm of players with low upside (think Zac Rinaldo) or long-term projects (think Linus Hogberg and David Bernhardt from Philadelphia's 2016 draft). But Lindblom didn't fit either category when he was selected two years ago.

In fact, Lindblom was once viewed as a relatively high-end prospect in the 2014 draft pool. Early in the 2013-14 season, many felt he could sneak into the back-end of the first round, and even after a just-OK season in the Swedish J20 league, he was still generally ranked by most public ratings as a second or third round talent. Instead, he lasted all the way to the fifth round, where the Flyers finally ended his slide.

So did the Flyers get a true steal in Lindblom, a potential impact player who was unfairly dropped down draft boards at the worst possible time? Or did scouts and teams know something that the public didn't when they allowed him to slip to the late rounds? After two seasons, the evidence is pointing more and more towards the former, Flyers-friendly scenario when it comes to Oskar Lindblom.

No. 12: Oskar Lindblom

Position: LW
Age: 20 (8/15/1996)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Brynas (SHL) - 8 G, 17 A in 48 GP
Nationality: Swedish (Gavle)
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft -- Round 5, Pick 138

In some ways, it's understandable that Lindblom fell in the estimation of scouts in 2014 and that he still remains something of an under-the-radar prospect nationally. After all, his skillset isn't of the highlight reel, Travis Konecny/Shayne Gostisbehere mold. Lindblom is not a particularly dynamic skater (though he has improved in this area), and won't score a ton of goals on the rush. His best attributes come in his soft hands around the net, willingness to mix it up physically to win puck battles, and all-around hockey awareness -- all important characteristics, but not ones that make for snappy Youtube clips.

In addition, by virtue of playing in the Swedish Hockey League (mostly against grown men), his scoring statistics are unlikely to ever reach eye-popping levels. Kids under the age of 20 rarely receive the responsibilities and ice time necessary to rack up gaudy point totals in the SHL, unless they happen to be the next Daniel or Henrik Sedin. So while last year's 25 points in 48 games as a 19 year old was impressive on the part of Lindblom, it's simply not going to excite fans the way that Konecny's 101 points in 60 OHL games does, even if the SHL is a far more challenging league.

But what is truly exciting about Lindblom is this: whenever he does have the opportunity to play in more age-appropriate settings, his point production has always been stellar.

Take his performances in World Junior Championship play, for example. During his Draft+1 season, Lindblom had the opportunity to represent Sweden at the WJC, and was still basically an unknown at the time. Earning a role on Sweden's top line, Lindblom excelled, scoring nine points in seven games to rank tied for sixth in total points at the tournament. The following year he again stood out, finishing with six points in seven games.

In fact, during 26 games at the WJC (U18 & U20) level, playing against his true peers, Lindblom was nearly a point per game player, posting 25 (12 goals, 13 assists). The sample size isn't huge, but it's clear that whenever Lindblom has been given the opportunity to match up directly with competition his own age, he's been one of the most productive players on the ice.

But the real eye-opener for many Philadelphia fans came in Lindblom's brief stint in North America at the end of the 2015-16 season. Signed to an amateur try-out contract that allowed him to join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the final games of their regular season, Lindblom didn't miss a beat in his move to a new league, in a new country, on a smaller ice surface. In eight games with the Phantoms, he scored seven points and according to observers, rarely looked out of place in all three zones.

Suddenly, Lindblom wasn't just the guy who played well in those tournaments around the end of December, or put up solid numbers relative to age-related expectations in Sweden. Instead, he was the forward who showed up in Lehigh Valley and was immediately one of the best players on the team the minute he laced up his skates. That's a lot more exciting than a guy who wins puck battles and "does all the little things right."

It's true that it's much easier to envision Lindblom's ceiling as that of the ultimate role player on a line rather than a forward with true superstar potential. His skating did look much improved at Development Camp in July, but he'll likely never be a burner. Nor does he possess the offensive creativity of a Travis Konecny that allows you to dream on him as a possible top-line NHL scorer. But support forwards have real value even at the top levels of hockey.

Look at Michael Raffl, who has proven to be one of the league's best drivers of even strength on-ice shot attempt differentials since he was plucked from Europe. Or Joonas Donskoi, the rookie Finnish forward who was so impressive for the San Jose Sharks during their playoff run this past summer. Forwards who play smart defense, retrieve pucks in the corners, crash the net, and utilize expert spacing and positioning on the rush and in the offensive zone to help create room for more talented teammates are not merely desirable assets for NHL teams, they are essential to their teams' long-term success. Those are the roles that Oskar Lindblom will be expected to fill if he is able to carve out a spot on the Flyers.

So what's next for Lindblom? There was some talk after his successful AHL stretch that he might stay in North America, but he chose to return to Sweden for a third full season with the big club there rather than look to sign an entry-level contract with the Flyers and go west. As he is now 20 years old, he won't be eligible for the WJC again, so Lindblom will have to rely solely upon his performance in the SHL to impress both scouts and the Philadelphia brass.

It's fair to expect Lindblom's role to be expanded even further by Brynas this season, though. After all, he jumped from 0.41 PPG in 2014-15 to 0.52 last season in the SHL, so his production is clearly trending upwards. It's also likely that this will be his last season in Sweden, before he either takes his talents to Lehigh Valley or ends up earning an immediate role with the Flyers. The front office is confident that Lindblom has every intention of eventually playing in the NHL, and next season would seemingly be an ideal time to start that journey.

In any case, right now Lindblom feels far more like the late-first/early-second round talent that scouts originally believed him to be way back in 2013 than a fifth round lottery ticket. From solid play in Sweden's top league, to standout performances on the world junior stage, to revelatory production in the AHL, Lindblom has passed every test thus far.  Another strong year with Brynas, and he should be ready for a new challenge.

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How we voted for Oskar Lindblom :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
19 9 11 13 12 13 9 16 13 14

How we voted at No. 12 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Jordan Weal Anthony Stolarz Anthony Stolarz German Rubtsov Oskar Lindblom German Rubtsov German Rubtsov Samuel Morin Nicolas Aube-Kubel Taylor Leier

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Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016: