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.
• 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.