Why patience is key for potential 'game-breaker' Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Why patience is key for potential 'game-breaker' Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Providence hockey and the Flyers are on the same page.

Both believe in Jay O'Brien. The two see eye to eye on the shiftiness and burst, the hands that can make the puck go all sorts of ways, the innate goal-scoring ability.

It's why the Friars and Flyers plucked O'Brien out of Thayer Academy, a prep school in Braintree, Massachusetts.

It's also why they're just fine with being patient.

"I think Jay, if he continues to progress, can be a game-breaker for us," Providence head coach Nate Leaman said Monday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "And that's what we're kind of looking for. We want him to continue to grow with the speed and the understanding of the game, but I think with his skill set and his ability, he can be a game-breaker. 

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also. So it's just for him continuing to grow."

O'Brien, an offensively gifted forward the Flyers selected 19th overall in the 2018 NHL draft, hasn't had the dream start to his collegiate career — and that's OK. He missed six games over the course of October and November because of upper-body injuries and went scoreless in his first eight contests.

Early adversity can derail a freshman season, but that's when O'Brien's background comes into play. Tony Amonte, the former Flyer and current head coach at Thayer Academy, commended O'Brien for his "grit to go along with goal scoring."

The mindset and work ethic were right on par with the skill.

The blend of those characteristics caught Leaman's attention on the recruiting trail.

First impression is that here's a guy that works and he has the skill set. That's what really drew us to him. Jay's skill set is pretty elite, but you see guys out there with real good skill sets but you don't see them work. The one thing that can make Jay special is that he competes and he works.

He's a positive kid. He's a very positive individual and I think he's having a year of learning. I think this is very healthy for everything Jay is going through. He has a great skill set, he's got very good vision, he's got very good hands around the net and in tight situations. His hands in tight situations, in tight around the net, are really elite. 

He's coming from high school hockey. Usually the normal freshman in college hockey, it takes them a good two months to really settle in and unfortunately, Jay missed some of that time with the injuries.

It's clear why Leaman was a major selling point for O'Brien choosing Providence.

"Coach Leaman is unbelievable, I think he's one of the best coaches in college hockey," O'Brien said last summer. "His compete and his want to win and his details are huge. It's a place I wanted to go as soon as I toured there."

Already, the tide is starting to turn for O'Brien, who has two goals and two assists in his last six outings following the eight-game scoreless stretch. Leaman has moved him from center to winger, with the purpose of freeing up O'Brien.

"He's been doing a good job with that," Leaman said. "He plays on the power play and he plays on one of our top lines on the wing.

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space."

Flyers player development coach John Riley and amateur scout Nick Pryor have been at a number of Providence's games.

"I communicate with them regularly also," Leaman said, "and I know they're communicating with Jay."

They're all being patient. O'Brien is, as well. There's too much potential to not believe in the process.

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

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Flyers' Oskar Lindblom diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma

Oskar Lindblom, a 23-year-old forward on the Flyers, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 season after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones.

Below is a statement from Flyers president of hockey operations and general manager Chuck Fletcher:

Philadelphia Flyers forward Oskar Lindblom has been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma by leading specialists at the University of Pennsylvania. He will undergo further testing and evaluation next week and begin treatment immediately thereafter. He is not expected to return to play for the remainder of the season. The Flyers will do everything possible to support Oskar and assist him in securing the best care available. Out of respect for Oskar and his family, the team will have no further comment at this time and asks that Oskar be afforded a period of privacy so that he may focus his efforts on his treatment and a return to full health.

Lindblom, a native of Sweden, had been one of the Flyers’ top players through 30 games, scoring 11 goals and 18 points.

He was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft and has blossomed into a promising player.

Always smiling, positive and humble, Lindblom is beloved by his teammates. His rise from a fifth-round pick to a difference-making player has been a product of hard work.

After scoring 17 goals last season, sixth most among NHL rookies, Lindblom went back to Gävle, Sweden, to train all summer with his old team Brynäs IF.

"It’s like five minutes from my house," Lindblom said during training camp.

“It was nice to be back home for a bit, just relaxed, had some time with friends and family, so it was great.”

It didn't take long for the Flyers' new coaching staff to fall in love with Lindblom's game as the winger raced out of the chute, scoring in the team's season opener and playing a major role ever since.

“I didn’t know much about Oskar before coming here, but what I’ve found is a real smart, two-way player, hard-working young man," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Oct. 26.

In the summer of 2017, Lindblom talked about his climb within the Flyers' system.

"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.

By the age of 23, he has more than made it on the highest level.

Below is the outpouring of support for Lindblom, via social media:

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Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip

Shorthanded Flyers can't keep up with Avalanche to begin road trip


From the moment it was announced that Oskar Lindblom would miss Wednesday night's game, the Flyers' chances at Pepsi Center felt bleak.

No Lindblom, no Travis Konecny and facing the NHL's highest-scoring team in its building was not a promising script for the Flyers, who lost to the Avalanche, 3-1.

In stretches this season, the Flyers have struggled to bury goals. And that has been with Lindblom and Konecny — their two leading goal-scorers at 11 apiece — in the lineup.

The Flyers (17-9-5) did some good things but Colorado finished plays behind its world class talent up top.

The Avalanche (20-8-3) are on an eight-game point streak (7-0-1) in which they've scored 4.13 goals per game.

• Without Konecny (concussion) and Lindblom (upper body), the Flyers had difficulty putting the puck in the net. They were going to have to put up some goals against the Avalanche, who entered scoring an NHL-best 3.70 goals per game. For the second time in the last three games, the Flyers scored only one goal.

The lone tally came from Claude Giroux when the Flyers were trailing 3-0 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

• Following a first period in which they survived, especially in the back half of it thanks to Carter Hart, the Flyers actually played a solid second period. At one point during the middle stanza, the Flyers were outshooting Colorado 11-0.

But as the Flyers kept pushing to no avail, the Avalanche changed the whole complexion of the period with one play by their two best weapons. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen hooked up for a nasty marker to make it 2-0 with 3:55 left in the period, a deflating goal to allow for the Flyers (see highlights).

Considering Colorado was 14-0-1 when leading after the middle period, the Flyers were in a serious hole, even after a hard-working period.

• Hart, who entered 8-2-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .928 save percentage over his last 12 starts, faced the Avalanche for the first time in his career.

He made a highlight-reel save and gave the Flyers a fighting chance in tough circumstances.

The 21-year-old has been impressive during the first period all season long, allowing the Flyers to find their legs and rhythm. He converted 12 of his 24 saves in the opening stanza against Colorado.

On the Avalanche's first-period goal, Scott Laughton won a defensive zone faceoff but the Flyers failed to clear the puck, resulting in Matt Calvert's tally.

Rantanen added his second goal early in the third period and that was pretty much the game.

Colorado goalie Pavel Francouz, who came in 5-0-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .926 save percentage over his last eight games (six starts), finished with 32 stops.

• When Philippe Myers (back spasms, day to day) is ready to return, Robert Hagg should be the odd man out on defense. Shayne Gostisbehere has found some of his offensive mojo and Myers has shown way too much promise to be sitting when healthy.

A stay-at-home guy like Hagg was far too noticeable against the Avalanche. He committed a penalty and was a minus-2 in 15:21 minutes.

• David Kase was summoned to Denver this morning to make his NHL debut and become the ninth rookie to play for the Flyers this season

The 22-year-old winger had a nice scoring chance and two shots in 7:47 minutes. 

• The Flyers head to the old stomping grounds of general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr when they visit the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Fletcher was the GM in Minnesota from 2009 to 2018 and Flahr was his AGM from 2010 to 2018.

The Flyers have not lost consecutive games in regulation since Oct. 27-29.

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