Flyers

On his own time, Oskar Lindblom puts himself right there with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Oskar Lindblom would take 10 minutes out of his own time and hit the ice early before practice. In Sweden, there was no high-level skating whiz to seek out on staff.
 
Actually, there was no skating coach period.
 
"Do your own thing and try to be better every day," Lindblom said. "That's the only thing you can do.
 
"You have to put yourself into it."
 
And so he did.
 
It's what makes the fifth-round pick's ascension that more grandiose. Lindblom is no longer a raw wonder with skating deficiencies. Those 10 minutes have added up into a refined and rising prospect, attracting Flyers fans in bunches last weekend.
 
Everyone knows Lindblom now.
 
"We picked Oskar, he went back to Europe, nobody even talks about him," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Friday at development camp. "What does he do? He just gets better and better and better."
 
Lindblom's climb has nearly reached the Flyers. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound winger signed his entry-level contract in May and turns 21 in August. He earned 2016-17 Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year honors playing for Brynäs IF. Over 52 regular-season games, Lindblom accumulated 47 points on 22 goals and 25 assists, then added 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 20 playoff games.
 
How in the world did all that slip to the fifth round of the 2014 draft?
 
"Oskar going into his draft year, he was thought to be a first-round pick, maybe top-15 pick that year," Hextall said. "He didn't have a great year, some things didn't go his way, whatever, you look back and these kids are really young.
 
"Some of these kids make a lot of progress in a couple years and I think Oskar is one of those guys. His skating, you look at certain players, they don't have a great stride and their skating can certainly get better, but there's a bit of ceiling there. With Oskar, it was more of a strength issue and that's what's come on with him. It's been a couple of years, he's gotten a lot stronger and you can just tell when you see him out on the ice there."
 
Not many would have predicted this, though. Lindblom, a humbled youngster from Sweden with long blonde hair, even surprised himself last season.
 
"A little bit," he said. "I just wanted to be a leading guy on our team, but I didn't think I was going to score that much or have that many points. The longer the season got, I got more confident in my play. It felt good."
 
So how did Lindblom develop so vastly? For one, it's come from his own motivation. He knew he had to become stronger, and he has. He knew his skating had to improve, so he worked on it. His hands had to be better, and now they are.
 
A lot of the credit goes to Lindblom.
 
"Take the hat off to the kid, too, because he put a lot of work in," Hextall said. "When you improve that much, he put a lot of work in."
 
Secondly, Lindblom embodies the importance of development camp. He valued the instruction from NHL coaches and implemented what he learned moving forward.
 
A significant influence in Lindblom's development has been Flyers skating coach Slava Kouznetsov.
 
"We've got some drills over here from Slava," Lindblom said. "Try to do small stuff like in the gym. Just the small stuff to do to get better — that's what you need to do.
 
"My legs are much stronger now and my technique has been a little better. Those two things I think have been most important."
 
If Hextall had a development camp manual, Lindblom would be in it.
 
"We have Slava here — he's instructed to give things to take home," Hextall said. "And if they work on those every day, even if it's only five minutes, I guarantee you over the course of the year, they'll get better. Oskar's a great example."
 
Lindblom said his plans are to head home following development camp and then return in mid-August "just to get ready and get comfortable." With the Flyers in need of scoring, specifically production from the wing, Lindblom has become the organization's most anticipated prospect not named Nolan Patrick. He'll be in September's training camp with more than a fighter's chance to win a roster spot.
 
"He had a real good year last year and he's certainly put himself on the map for everybody, but he still has to come in and get it done," Hextall said. "He has to prove he makes us a better team."
 
Lindblom, of all people, doesn't expect anything handed to him.
 
"It's going to be a big challenge for me," Lindblom said. "It's going to be tough work to get to where I want to be.
 
"Like everybody else, you have to earn the spot and battle for it."
 
A fifth-round pick is well aware.
 
"I just think about it by myself, like fifth-rounder, I just felt like I can play and I can be on this level," Lindblom said. "So I'm just trying to push myself every day and be better. Now I've signed here and just have to do my best now to get there. That's what I want — play in the NHL, of course."
 
Putting in 10 extra minutes by himself has him right there.