Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Trying to make sense of the Oskar Lindblom cut

Future Flyers Report: Trying to make sense of the Oskar Lindblom cut

The Flyers’ season opens Wednesday night in San Jose, and while a few members of this report have graduated to the NHL, one did not.

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects. The Phantoms’ season kicks off Friday night, but we’ll touch on the one player who somewhat surprisingly is headed to Lehigh Valley.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Many expected Lindblom to make the Flyers in his first season in North America, and despite flashing positives in training camp and preseason, the Swede failed to do so.

Let’s try to make sense as to why Lindblom didn’t make it. Throughout the preseason, Lindblom showed his defensive play was most certainly NHL ready. The advanced metrics tilted in his favor too. He was consistently one of the best Flyers in possession.

What may have cost Lindblom was the offense didn’t blossom right away. Lindblom scored his first goal in his last game last Tuesday on a deflection against the Rangers. Overall against New York, I thought he was excellent but it proved to be too late.

"Oskar did a good job in camp and it's the one thing you try to punctuate with young players," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Sunday. "You didn't fail. You had a good camp, but right now, the best thing for you and the team is for you to go up there and play well.

"Oskar is a good player and American League time hasn't hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. When you say high expectations, you are also talking about the kid who came from the big rink, played extremely well, but came from a big rink and all of a sudden, you get into a smaller rink with big guys, fast guys. Oskar played well."

Another potential reason why Lindblom is headed to Lehigh Valley could be his skating, a theory laid out by hockey guru Bill Meltzer, who tweeted Saturday afternoon “word on Lindblom is [he] still needs to work on his feet: quicker Point A to point B at NHL pace.”

This theory makes sense. Lindblom’s biggest knock in his draft year was his skating, an area he’s improved greatly in Sweden since 2014. There is an adjustment to the North American game, and it appears the Flyers want him to work on it with the Phantoms.

"He did a lot of good things," Hextall said of Lindblom. "He didn't produce the way he is capable of — maybe even getting in the proper spots and stuff, and again, he didn't play poorly. … There are a lot of things involved, but usually, young players, when you have to get down to the roster of 23, they have to push you and he pushed us, just not far enough."

Anyway, Lindblom will be a Phantom to start the season. It’s important to note Claude Giroux, in his first pro season in 2008-09, didn’t make the Flyers out of camp but forced his way back by dominating the AHL. Giroux was in the NHL after the Christmas break.

Lindblom had a strong enough camp to survive until the final cuts. How long he stays in Allentown will be dictated by injuries on the big club and how much he asserts himself in the AHL. I do believe we’ll see Lindblom back with the Flyers at some point this season.

"When you are the last player sent down," Hextall said, "that should tell you something right there. Go up there and play well. Call-ups, there is always a fit, but if the fit is you make sure it is you that we are looking at … I am sure Oskar will do that."

Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, 18, 6-6/205, Guelph (OHL)
After a quiet opening weekend for the Storm, Ratcliffe had a productive two games this past weekend. Ratcliffe picked up three points and 10 shots on goal in two games. On Friday night, the 2017 second-round pick had his first two-point game of the season.

In the Storm’s 5-4 win over the Oshawa Generals, Ratcliffe picked up a secondary assist on the Garrett McFadden’s first-period power-play goal. About 10 minutes later, the winger found the back of the net for his first marker of the campaign. Ratcliffe glided into the high slot off the rush before beating Logan Gauthier’s glove with a quick shot.

On Saturday night, Ratcliffe picked up his second goal of the season midway through the second period of Guelph’s 6-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit on a wraparound. Ratcliffe also had a double-minor in the third period for interference and roughing.

Ratcliffe was a minus-4 after his first two games but had a plus-1 weekend. Through four games, he’s a minus-3 with 19 shots on goal and three points. He’s a bit of project with raw skills that 10 years ago would have seen him go in the first round. Still, the Flyers liked Ratcliffe enough to trade up to draft him with the 35th overall pick in June.

Quick hits
• It was a pretty busy weekend for Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge, who scored in back-to-back games, both power-play goals, and picking up six penalty minutes.

Matthew Strome had goals in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday for Hamilton. He had an assist Sunday. Strome’s goal Friday night was an easy tap-in.

Morgan Frost had a two-assist game Sunday for Sault Ste. Marie after going pointless his previous two games. Known for his hockey smarts, Frost had six penalty minutes in the Greyhounds' 2-1 win over North Bay on Friday.

Anthony Salinitri had a two-assist game in Sarnia’s 6-2 win over the Kingston Frontenacs on Saturday night and then a three-assist effort Sunday against Ottawa.

• Owen Sound’s Maksim Sushko had a two-point weekend. Sushko had an assist in a 4-3 win over Kitchener on Friday and his first goal Saturday in a 6-4 win over Mississauga.

German Rubtsov has yet to play for Chicoutimi this season because of paperwork. Per Jonathan Hudon, those issues should be cleared up this week.

Carter Hart made his first start of the season Friday night, stopping 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 Everett win over Kelowna. He came in relief Saturday night, turning away 22 of 25 shots in the Silvertips’ 5-4 loss to the Tri-City Americans.

Olle Lycksell scored his first goal Sunday for the Linköping HC J20 team.

• In two games last week, Felix Sandstrom stopped 59 of 63 shots for Brynäs IF.

David Kase had another two-point game for Mora IK last week, picking up a goal and an assist in a 5-2 loss to Färjestad BK on Saturday.

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.