Oskar Lindblom paired with Claude Giroux on Flyers' top line as camp opens

Oskar Lindblom paired with Claude Giroux on Flyers' top line as camp opens

VOORHEES, N.J. — Friday was only the first day of Flyers training camp but some excitement was generated with the pairing of Oskar Lindblom and Claude Giroux on the top line.

Lindblom was at left wing, Giroux at center and Travis Konecny on the right to kick off full-squad practices, which was a major step forward for the 21-year-old prospect. Only two days ago, Lindblom was wrapping up rookie camp. Now, he's skating with the Flyers' captain.

"It was fun to play with him and see how good we are," Lindblom said after practice. "I just tried to do my best out there and see how it goes."

It was only Day 1 (more on that here), and line combinations are subject to change — rapidly. The Flyers are also split into two squads for the time being, with Jakub Voracek (a frequent linemate of Giroux's) in the second group. In other words, don't read too deeply into Lindblom's placement just yet.

Then again, putting Lindblom on a line with Konecny and in particular Giroux certainly says something of the Flyers' intentions. At the very least, the club wants to see how Lindblom performs alongside NHL talent.

"Of course, when you play with better players, you have to step up a little bit," Lindblom said, "but you have to play your game and be the player you are. You can't be another player, so just do your best out there. Hopefully, it works, and we'll see."

A fifth-round draft pick in 2014, Lindblom emerged as a legitimate scoring threat with Brynas IF in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound left-hander racked up 22 goals and 27 assists in 52 games over the 2016-17 campaign, setting nearly a point-per-game pace. Lindblom also impressed in a brief AHL stint with the Phantoms in 2015-16 with two goals and five assists in eight games.

It's no secret the Flyers have struggled to put the puck in the back of the net in recent years, particularly at even strength. The team finished 20th in goals scored last season and ranked 27th in 5-on-5 scoring.

If Lindblom can carry over his recent success to the NHL, it would go a long way toward helping the Flyers reverse that trend.

"We only did a couple of drills, but his hockey sense is pretty high," Giroux said. "He has a good shot and he's not scared going to the net. We have a couple more practices here and hopefully a couple preseason games together, and see how it goes."

"He's awesome," Konecny said. "Get him the puck, he's going to bury it. He's a smart player, he's always in the right spot, so I'm sure that will translate to the game. I'm excited to see it."

Lindblom has also gained a reputation as a strong two-way player, which some observers noted was on display in the Flyers' rookie game against the Islanders on Wednesday. As far as Lindblom sees it, his performance on offense and defense are related — a mentality that can only further aid his cause.

"You have to be good in both ends if you're going to play in the NHL," Lindblom said. "If you're good in your own end, you're probably going to end up having chances offensively."

As long as Lindblom is getting an extended look with Giroux and Konecny, he needs to make the most of it. Though it's generally believed Lindblom has a strong chance at making the Flyers' roster, it's not a given.

Consider this Lindblom's audition. He said he's confident and knows exactly what he has to do to solidify his spot.

"Play hard," Lindblom said. "Be hard around the boards and just go to the net the whole time, try to score some goals and do my thing."

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well as draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.