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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: Oskar Lindblom’s breakout has him on the cusp of the NHL

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The Flyers’ top wing prospect had a monster year in Sweden, and now has his sights set on the NHL.

Kate Frese / SB Nation

It’s been a long climb back to the top for Oskar Lindblom.

In the fall of 2013, Lindblom wasn’t merely viewed as a good prospect; most scouts were talking him up as a likely first-round selection in the coming year’s NHL draft. He had excelled in all international tournaments to that point, and brought an obvious size/skill combination to the table. Entering his draft year, Lindblom may not have been a lock for the first round, but his case was looking mighty strong.

In retrospect, it’s not like Lindblom’s draft season was a total disaster. He scored 33 points in 43 games in the under-20 SuperElit league in Sweden, and continued to rack up numbers during international play. But scouts began to question Lindblom’s skating ability, and in tandem with the expectation of even more dominance than he showed that year, he tumbled down draft boards. The Flyers were the team who finally ended his slide, all the way back in the fifth round.

In the wake of the draft, Lindblom slowly rebuilt his stock, even though it went unnoticed by most on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. He had a full-time job in the SHL by age-18 and stood out in two straight U20 World Junior Championships (15 points in 14 games). But it took an eye-opening audition in Lehigh Valley at the end of the 2015-16 season to really get the attention of Flyers fans. Following that seven-points-in-eight-games run with the Phantoms, Lindblom finally turned into a true “prospect to watch” in the SHL last fall.

Not only did Oskar Lindblom not disappoint, he exceeded even the most optimistic projections. Fresh off a season in which he may have been the best overall player in the SHL at age-20, Lindblom is once again viewed as an impact prospect, just in time for a real push towards the NHL.

No. 7: Oskar Lindblom

Position: LW/RW
Age: 21 (8/15/1996)
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft -- Round 5, Pick 138
2016-17 League/Team/Statistics: Brynäs (SHL) - 22 G, 25 A in 52 GP
Nationality: Swedish
Ranking in BSH Winter 2017 25 Under 25: 6

Let’s be clear — it’s not easy for young prospects like Lindblom to dominate the SHL. It’s either the third or fourth-best league in the world (depending upon your view of the AHL), and mostly filled with players in their mid-20s and beyond. They’re the ones who generally populate the League Leaders sheet.

However, Lindblom found a way to rack up 47 points in 52 games, leading his Brynas team in scoring and ranking fourth in the entire SHL. The three players ahead of him ended the 2016-17 season ages 29, 29 and 33, to give one an idea of his competition.

These weren’t empty points, either. Lindblom racked them up in all situations, finished second in the league in goals, and did all of this for a team that eventually made the SHL Final. Journalists in Sweden surely noticed; they voted Lindblom “Forward of the Year” at the conclusion of the season, putting the bow on his monster performance.

It’s not unprecedented for a forward of Lindblom’s age to score at a high-end rate in the SHL, but it is rare. Over the past ten seasons, only six SHL players in their Draft+3 season (the third season after they first gained NHL draft eligibility) have ranked in the top-ten in total points. Out of those six, just Jakob Silfverberg’s point-per-game rate of 1.10 was higher than Lindblom’s 0.90 that he posted last season.

SHL Draft+3 Top Scorers

Player Season Draft Year Age Games Points PPG League Rank
Player Season Draft Year Age Games Points PPG League Rank
Jakob Silfverberg 2011-12 Draft+3 20.92 49 54 1.10 2nd
Oskar Lindblom 2016-17 Draft+3 20.11 52 47 0.90 4th
Andreas Johnsson 2015-16 Draft+3 20.82 52 44 0.85 6th
Viktor Arvidsson 2013-14 Draft+3 20.44 50 40 0.80 9th
Calle Jarnkrok 2012-13 Draft+3 20.97 53 42 0.79 8th
Oscar Lindberg 2012-13 Draft+3 20.87 55 42 0.76 8th

A few key points jump out from this chart. The first is that four of these five (non-Lindblom) players range from borderline star to useful piece in terms of their NHL results so far, and the only exception is Andreas Johnsson, who simply hasn’t gotten a shot yet in a stacked Maple Leafs system. Second, Lindblom was by far the youngest of any SHL Draft+3 forward to finish in the top-10 in league scoring over the past decade. While players like Silfverberg, Johnsson, Jarnkrok and Lindberg all were about to turn 21 when their big SHL season began, Lindblom had just barely turned 20 when his kicked off. That makes his performance all the more impressive in comparison to his peers.

Does this mean that Oskar Lindblom is definitely going to be the next Viktor Arvidsson or Jakob Silfverberg? Of course not. But the fact that he compares favorably from a statistical standpoint to both does bode well, and hints at Lindblom’s best case scenario ceiling. Calle Jarnkrok and Oscar Lindberg function more as Lindblom’s floor, but both are at least useful bottom-six forwards in the best league in the world. That’s far from a terrible outcome, particularly for a player selected in the fifth round.

Of course, Flyers fans are understandably hoping for an Arvidsson or Silfverberg-esque outcome. And while that’s certainly an optimistic way to view Oskar Lindblom, I can’t say it’s implausible. Lindblom’s only major weakness on draft day was skating ability, and after three years of hard work, he’s now solidly NHL average in that regard. He’ll never be a true burner, but Lindblom is now fast enough to get to everywhere on the ice that he needs to be in order to create offense.

That’s a good thing, because it’s Lindblom’s hockey sense that truly is his best quality. He has always had a knack for pouncing on loose pucks and finding the soft spots in defensive coverages. The consistent worry during his development was that Lindblom would see the ice well enough to succeed in the NHL, but simply be too far behind the play to take advantage of that knowledge. Now, it’s no longer a major concern.

Despite his fantastic SHL season and his clear skating improvements, Lindblom should not be viewed as a truly dynamic offensive weapon. That’s not to say he won’t put up points — it just won’t necessarily be in the manner of a Travis Konecny, the last highly-touted young forward to debut for the Flyers. Rather than fly around the offensive zone and attempt to create a highlight reel goal, Lindblom is far more at home around the net or along the boards, either making himself a target for a pass to a high-danger area, or doing the dirty work to allow for such a pass to go to a teammate.

It’s skills like these that will make Lindblom such a intriguing figure at Flyers training camp in September. The team definitely lacked for size up front in 2016-17, and the problem of creating high-danger chances in the offensive zone lingered throughout the year. Combine the fact that Lindblom’s skillset seems tailor-made to help address those problems with the simple truth that he has already dominated in one of the best European professional hockey leagues, and it’s fair to expect that Lindblom will be given a real shot to make the Flyers next month.

That doesn’t mean he’s a lock, of course. Philadelphia already has eleven veteran forwards under NHL contract, and that’s not counting Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton, Mike Vecchione and Taylor Leier, all of whom will be given legitimate shots to make the opening night roster. The Flyers won’t want Lindblom making the team just to sit in the press box as a thirteenth or fourteenth forward, so for him to break camp in Philadelphia, he’ll need to be one of the 12 best, at least.

Still, that doesn’t seem like an unattainable goal for Lindblom. He already checks the first two boxes of Ron Hextall’s A Prospect’s Guide to Making the Flyers list, leaving only “stand out in camp” and “outplay roster competition” remaining for him. If Oskar Lindblom approaches training camp the same way he did the 2016-17 season in Sweden, it’s tough to imagine him failing to complete the checklist. Then, it will just be up to Lindblom to prove that his SHL dominance can carry over to the best league in the world.

How We Voted For Oskar Lindblom

Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
7 6 7 7 7 6 11 8 12 6 6 7

How We Voted At No. 7

Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Kurt Al Kelly Allison Jay Charlie Bill Steph Kate Travis Joe Community
Oskar Lindblom Travis Sanheim Oskar Lindblom Oskar Lindblom Oskar Lindblom Travis Sanheim Carter Hart Carter Hart Carter Hart Scott Laughton Travis Sanheim Oskar Lindblom

How The Community Voted For Oskar Lindblom

Ranking # of Votes
Ranking # of Votes
1 1
2 3
3 15
4 33
5 92
6 286
7 238
8 138
9 77
10 58
11 31
12 13
13 19
14 4
15 9
16 3
17 1
18 3
19 1
20 0
21 0
22 0
23 0
24 1
25 1
NR 7

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Previously on Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2017 25 Under 25: