Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
The topic: What are your expectations for Oskar Lindblom in 2017-18?
The early consensus has Lindblom cracking the Flyers’ roster on a nightly basis, and I’m among those believing that. The question is just how much of an impact will he have.
What makes Lindblom an attractive prospect to me — and why I ultimately believe he’ll be a Flyer in 2017-18 and not in Lehigh Valley — is his versatility. He can play both wings but figures to play on the left side with the orange and black. We’ll talk about his scoring soon.
One of the key areas the Flyers have lacked in recent years is scoring on the wing. I think that has more to do with the retooling process they’re going through than anything else. It takes time for kids to develop to a point where they can make an impact at the NHL level.
With Lindblom, we’ll start to see the retooling pay off. He’ll join Travis Konecny and potentially either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier on the Flyers’ roster next season.
Lindblom’s progression since his draft year has been upward. His skating, which was an area of concern when drafted and played into why he fell to the fifth round, has improved. He consistently increased his point production each year in the SHL, a top European league.
He made a lot of noise in 2016-17 with Brynäs IF as one of the SHL’s prolific scorers, which he was, but he also had a 2015-16 campaign worth noting too. As a 19-year-old, Lindblom put up 25 points in 48 games in the SHL. After the season, he joined the Phantoms on an amateur tryout and posted seven points in eight games. We have to consider that year too.
Because of the jump he took as a 20-year-old playing in a league against men and former NHL players — let’s also factor international tournaments too — I just don’t see any benefit of him playing in the AHL this season. I think he’ll prove himself worthy of an NHL spot too.
So, what should we expect from Lindblom in his rookie season? I believe he’ll land on the team’s second or third line, and I don’t think 30-35 points would be too much to ask of him. I think the Flyers could use him on the second power-play unit as well. Perhaps I have high expectations for Lindblom, but he’s done nothing to suggest he can't make an immediate impact.
I think it's important to temper expectations for when prospects make the jump.
Just look at Konecny. No, he wasn't coming from the SHL, but he was touted — a first-round pick that toyed with the junior competition. His future is ultra bright, but he understandably did not set the world on fire his rookie season.
Lindblom will not be an immediate savior for the Flyers at wing. Heck, he's not even on the roster yet as he'll have to earn that right in training camp.
But Lindblom has epitomized development as a prospect. He was raw when the Flyers snagged him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, but he has greatly improved his hands and skating. Pair that with his size (6-2, 187) and age (20), and he's an exciting piece for the Flyers only getting better.
As much buzz as there is circulating around Lindblom making the Flyers out of camp, it would not surprise me if he starts at Lehigh Valley to see some AHL time. That doesn't have to be for long — we all know how injuries create opportunity throughout an NHL season. Players can also win a call-up, too, by producing.
When general manager Ron Hextall spoke about Lindblom in early April, that was before the Flyers landed the No. 2 overall pick in the entry draft, while the offseason hasn't begun, either. The Flyers also have Jordan Weal (who will be re-signed) and Valtteri Filppula looking at full seasons, not to mention Mike Vecchione and the No. 2 pick competing for spots, so depth is building in the Flyers' group of forwards.
Given Hextall's prudence and the option of Lehigh Valley for further development, I can foresee Lindblom getting another taste of the AHL. But he'll be with the Flyers at some point in 2017-18 and he'll show he belongs.
Count this guy among those who believe Lindblom will be wearing the Flyers crest on his chest come opening night in October. His track record over in Sweden has done nothing to make me think otherwise.
His 38 goals and 49 assists over the last three years are nothing to stick your nose up at. He put up those numbers while playing against men in his age 18, 19 and 20 seasons. That's impressive. What's even more impressive is the jump he took this past season with 22 goals and 25 assists en route to earning SHL Forward of the Year honors as a 20-year-old.
With that type of talent and progression, there's really almost no way in my mind Lindblom can't make the Flyers out of camp and contribute next season with the way the Flyers are desperately yearning for scoring from the wings. He would have to totally flame out during camp to not make the club as he can help fill a great need.
But what should the expectations for Lindblom next season be then?
As Jordan mentioned above, while we see a player with great skill and a high ceiling, we still have to temper expectations. We have to remember that Lindblom will still just be 21 by the time the season starts. It will also be his first time going up against the best talent the world has to offer in the NHL. There will be an adjustment period that will likely see some tough stretches. And that's normal for a kid coming over the North America. It will be nothing to worry too heavily about.
I'm not going to take a stab at a specific number of goals or points because I don't think that would be realistic or fair to do at this point in time so far before the season starts, but once Lindblom gets through that adjustment period and things start to click, there's no reason to me that he can't become a regular contributor on the Flyers' second or third line as the year progresses.