Once again we are projecting for a Flyer forward, attempting to gain insights into their potential growth or decline. Now, you the reader obviously know who the subject is today since it’s in the headline, but I was wavering between Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom for my next piece. In the end, I went with Lindblom because he is a forward who I predict will have a high variance of outcomes potentially, just by cursory glance. That’s not to say that this won’t be the case for Nolan Patrick either, but I was increasingly excited to research Lindblom since I have been watching his play at the World Championships with Sweden. He’s looked pretty good there, and this goal he scored off a tip from a William Nylander pass has been making the rounds on social media.
William Nylander (Tournament leader in points now) to Lindblom makes it 9-1 to Sweden. #IIHFWorlds pic.twitter.com/i3eKRLYoad— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) May 13, 2019
Pretty slick from the young left winger indeed, and plays like this highlight his skill upside that can sometimes be overlooked in his game. Lindblom, I would say, is more known as a forward who does little things right like winning board battles, and he plays all 200 feet of the ice. In his first full NHL season, Lindblom showed promise. While his rookie campaign may not have been memorable compared to others (Carter Hart, Miro Heiskanen, and Elias Pettersson to name a few), Lindblom was certainly solid. However, what more can we look for from the former 5th round pick?
What the numbers say
(Statistics courtesy of Corsica hockey)
In 81 contests over the 2018-19 season, Lindblom scored 17 goals and provided 16 assists for 33 points. That’s certainly not bad at all for a first full campaign, and it has sparked a debate as to how Lindblom should be viewed by the Flyers. There’s a relatively old post on the Fanpost segment of Pension Plan Puppets which looks at averages in production for forwards. In line with the author’s research, Lindblom’s 33 points place him in between being an average-poor 2nd line LW. That seems to be a fair assessment given Lindblom’s usage in the last two quarters of the season. His two most common linemates in quarters 3 and 4 (according to DobberTools) were Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier. When used on this pairing, Lindblom put up 21 points, compared to just 11 in the first half of the season when he was playing with Phil Varone and Dale Weise at times. This all being said, I would classify Lindblom as an excellent 3rd line LW, and a passable/average 2nd line LW. I think playing with Couturier and Voracek almost certainly brought out more positives in his game, but that does leave me a bit unsure as to whether his linemates were helping carry Lindblom’s results slightly. However, Lindblom’s advanced metrics leave me doubting that notion.
Lindblom’s 50.31% Corsi-For percentage (CF%) at even strength leads me to rule against the Swede being carried by the likes of Couturier and Voracek. 50.31% isn’t necessarily an excellent percentage, but it is pretty good for a rookie forward to be positively affecting possession play. This shouldn’t be a surprise either, given Lindblom’s ability to win board battles and keep play in the offensive zone. Factoring in Lindblom’s total time on ice, and not just at even strength, his CF% jumps to 50.86%, which is a good sign considering he played time on the penalty kill. His expected goals for comes in at 53.30, which places him just shy of Mats Zuccarello (53.43). I am hoping to see this number increase, as I think Lindblom has more potential to be a goal scorer than Zuccarello.
Speaking of Zuccarello, I wouldn’t say that he is a good comparable for Lindblom. Not only is Zuccarello significantly smaller, but he is more of a playmaking winger than Lindblom. However, some players linked to Zuccarello, in my opinion, fit the bill. They would be: Esa Tikkanen, Michal Pivonka, and Marco Sturm. Tikkanen I’ve chosen as a best-case scenario, with Pivonka and Sturm being more realistic comparisons. I will be using a slightly different method to compare their point production. I will still use point shares (WAR), but I will use adjusted point totals to correct for era. Adjusting points corrects all point outputs for an “82-game schedule with a maximum roster size of 18 skaters and league averages of 6 goals per game and 1.67 assists per goal.”
Using adjusted point totals, and averaging comparable output for each player’s second NHL season, the result comes to 44.33 points, which would place Lindblom in between good and average 2nd line LW territory. A roughly 10 point increase is not remotely out of the realm of possibility for Lindblom. I actually think it’s expected if he is to continue to develop and improve like we think he will. For a more future-centric prediction, Lindblom’s comparables average 5.0 and 6.0 point shares. If the Flyers score at a better rate than last season, more in line with 2017-18, then Lindblom’s production down the line could hit 50-55 points at his peak. That would be huge coming from a 5th round pick.
I wouldn’t look for Lindblom to score a lot more than 20 goals, however, if his linemates are changed. I said earlier that Lindblom does not appear to be carried by linemates, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect more than 20 goals if he isn’t paired with a top center. This can be said of all wingers, but with the potential of Couturier being pushed back up to the top line with Giroux on his wing limits Lindblom’s potential if the Flyers do not bring in another center. This is no reason to doubt Lindblom’s effectiveness in the long term, but personally I have a slight bit of caution projecting Lindblom’s future.
Ultimately, I think Lindblom probably ends up at around 40 points, with 15-20 goals. I do think he takes a step forward, but I think he ultimately plays at an okay 2nd line level/great 3rd line level next season with the potential to be a great 2nd line LW in the future. Despite what his future point totals may amount to, I think Lindblom’s true value lies in his hockey intelligence, and in his ability to help drive play positively. Lindblom may never be an excellent point producer, but his value may never need to be measured by that completely. I am curious to see Lindblom’s possession statistics for next season, and whether or not he takes a large jump in that department.
Projections - previous players analysed: