Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Another Oskar Lindblom? Marcus Westfalt has footsteps to follow with Flyers

Ron Hextall knows how these things can work out.

He remembers plucking Oskar Lindblom in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft. Not much was made of the pick, barely even a peep, because, well, the 138th overall selections don't typically draw heaps of praise.

Lindblom quietly slipped back to Sweden. Three summers later, Flyers fans couldn't stop talking about him.

"Oskar went away, no one knew who the hell he was, fifth-round pick, over there getting better and better and better and bang," Hextall said last July. "He's the SHL Forward of the Year."

One has to believe Lindblom's name popped in the general manager's head when the Flyers saw Marcus Westfalt still available and the clock ticking on their 2018 seventh-round pick. At 205th overall, Westfalt became the Flyers' final selection, making for eerie similarities to Lindblom, who forced his way to the big club in 2017-18.

Westfalt plays for the same Swedish junior team (Brynäs IF J20) and SHL squad (Brynäs IF) as Lindblom did when he was taken by the Flyers. Both prospects are from Sweden and dropped in their respective drafts. Lindblom, a left winger, stands 6-foot-1, 191 pounds, while Westfalt, a center/left winger, comes in at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Another Lindblom in the works?

"Hopefully, that's my dream, of course," Westfalt said three weeks ago at Flyers development camp. "But he's a really good player, he's got a lot of skill. But, yeah, hopefully."

The 18-year-old was well aware of Lindblom. It was hard to not hear or see his fellow countryman transform from fifth-round pick to ballyhooed Flyers prospect. In 2016-17, when Lindblom really took off with Brynäs IF and won Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, Westfalt witnessed the rise.

"I watch him a lot," Westfalt said. "His last year in Brynäs before he got here, I watched him a lot. He's a [role model] because I think he's really good, he's good with his hands, his speed, he uses his body well. I watch him a lot."

In his draft year, Lindblom played only four SHL games compared to 43 for Brynäs IF J20. For Westfalt, it was a bit different. He appeared in 39 SHL games, including playoffs, while playing 26 contests at the junior ranks, where he put up 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and a plus-19 rating.

Westfalt's goal for 2018-19 is to play the whole season in the SHL. Lindblom did a bit later than Westfalt, but once the jump was made, he impacted games.

"Try to get more ice time," Westfalt said. "Bigger role in the game.

"[Brynäs IF] told me that I have some things I need to work on and if I do that, I can get to play."

Westfalt, who had four points (one goal, three assists) in those 39 SHL games, said he tries to be "a smart, two-way centerman," and feels his "play in the D-zone is better than the offense."

"I'm strong without the puck and with the puck," he said.

While the goal is to stick in the SHL, he's uncertain which level will be best for his on-ice growth at this stage of his development.

"When I play in junior, I get more ice time, I get to play a lot more with the puck, I get to play the power play and stuff like that," he said. "I want to play in the juniors, too, because I want to work on my skills, but my big goal is to do the same thing I do in the juniors in the SHL."

Lindblom eventually did, carving out his path to the Flyers at 21 years old.

"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 last summer.

With Westfalt, there is no chip on his shoulder as a seventh-round pick.

"No, for me, I'm just glad that I'm here," he said. "It's a great organization. It's fun to go earlier [in the draft], but I'm just happy to be here."

And eager to climb like Lindblom.

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With newcomers, Flyers keep on humming in NHL playoff race, have Penguins in their sights

With newcomers, Flyers keep on humming in NHL playoff race, have Penguins in their sights

BOX SCORE

A day after the NHL trade deadline, the Flyers showed off their new look and didn't miss a beat.

With reinforcements Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, the Flyers defeated the Sharks, 4-2, Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (36-20-7) have won four straight games, their longest win streak since Dec. 17-23, when they also won four in a row.

Not many in the league have been better than the Flyers over their last 20 games. The Flyers are 14-5-1 with an NHL-high 72 goals since Jan. 8. Over that stretch, only one club has more points than the Flyers' 29 — the Lightning with 31.

The Sharks (26-33-4), who have a number of injuries and traded away Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Marleau before Monday's deadline, have lost five straight.

• Good work by the Flyers handling a lesser opponent.

Tuesday was a big night in the playoff race as the Islanders, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes were all in action

The Flyers are still in third place of the Metropolitan Division and climbed to within one point of the second-place Penguins.

• The new line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny sure was fun to watch.

During the second period, Hayes and Konecny scored goals to help the Flyers restore order with a 3-1 lead at intermission.

Hayes tacked on another in the third period, giving him 21 markers this season. The 27-year-old is projected to break his career high of 25 set in 2017-18 and he might flirt with 30.

On Hayes' first goal, the 6-foot-5 center used his impressive reach to snag Laughton's pass and bury the shot. The Flyers are 17-0-1 when Hayes scores a goal.

Meanwhile, Konecny finished with his third three-point effort over the last four games. He had two three-point games over his first three NHL seasons.

Laughton continued his always reliable play with two assists and a plus-3 mark.

• Grant and Thompson, both acquired by the Flyers Monday, were eased into duty.

Both went scoreless as Grant committed a penalty and was solid in the faceoff circle, while Thompson centered the fourth line.

Here's how they're getting acclimated (see story).

• At home, Carter Hart has been an absolute nightmare for opponents.

With 26 saves, he improved his home mark to 17-2-2.

The 21-year-old has yielded two or fewer goals in 17 of his 21 home games. He is a must-see ticket in Philly.

• Defensemen Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim made clutch third-period plays to break up juicy scoring chances for the Sharks.

• Nicolas Aube-Kubel has six goals this season. He has turned into one of the biggest surprises since his mid-December call-up.

Last season, he went scoreless over nine outings, playing just 5:35 minutes per game.

• A beautiful job by the Flyers.

• The Flyers are off Wednesday and practice Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before hosting the Rangers Friday night (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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Don't like the Phillie Phanatic's new look? Gritty has a message for you

Don't like the Phillie Phanatic's new look? Gritty has a message for you

When Gritty and the Phillie Phanatic met in September 2018 at Citizens Bank Park, a special bond was born.

With his best friend from across the street under the microscope for his new look, Gritty stepped up Tuesday night in defense of the Phanatic.

During the first period of the Flyers-Sharks game at the Wells Fargo Center, Gritty had a message for anyone out there not in support of the Phanatic's fresh style.

This is what best friends do.

Good for Gritty. The Phanatic would do the same for the orange fella.

Both will be reunited at the ballyard soon.

Look out.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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