Flyers

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

One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_bobby_brink.jpg
Zack Hill/ Philadelphia Flyers

One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

Bobby Brink will remember waiting.

With the NHL draft, most players will say it doesn't matter where you go or when you're taken, it's just special to hear your name called — a dream realized.

Brink, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound winger from Minnetonka, Minnesota, masterfully delivered in his draft year. He carved up the USHL for 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 regular-season games with the Sioux City Musketeers, turning himself into what many viewed as a first-round prospect.

He didn't learn his draft destiny until Saturday, Day 2 of the event, at pick No. 34 overall.

"I landed in a great spot with the Flyers," Brink said last month at development camp, "and I couldn't be happier to be here."

Thrilled, absolutely. But …

"It's motivation that teams passed up on you," Brink said. "It was a long day Friday."

He won't forget.

The Flyers traded up to snag Brink. They were excited he was still available on Day 2, three selections into the second round (see story). Brink said he had met with the Flyers throughout the year and at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"I knew the history of the Flyers," Brink said. "It's such an historic organization.

"They didn't tell me they were going to draft me or anything, but I thought I was on their radar."

For good reason.

Brink isn't regarded as the biggest, fastest or strongest, but there's a deceptive quickness to his skating, he thrives on outsmarting the opposition and he's exceptionally skilled. 

I rely on the scouts to put the list together and Bobby was a player that our entire staff highly endorsed, scouted and very much liked as a hockey player. I've known Bobby and his family for many years. His dad Andy coached my son and also taught him in school. So there's a long relationship there. 

In terms of the background, I felt comfortable giving my opinion to the staff about what a quality kid from a quality family. Watched him play at every level, and it's remarkable — he was a star player in squirt and peewee, and he's a star player in the USHL. It's been amazing to watch his rise. He's a high-quality prospect.

- Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher

During the 5-on-5 scrimmage to finish off development camp, Brink stood out playing alongside top prospects Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe.

"He's a small guy, but he works hard," the 6-foot-6 Ratcliffe said. "He seemed to control the puck and it was on a string for him out there.

"He's a really good player."

Brink, who is headed to the University of Denver, said growing up he has admired smaller players in the NHL like Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane.

"Seeing them do that, I realize that I can do it, too," Brink said. "They're providing me opportunity, for the smaller guys, by having so much success."

Gaudreau, the 25-year-old five-time All-Star, is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger who was drafted out of the USHL in 2011. He heard his name called in the fourth round.

Sometimes waiting can be a good thing.

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.

More on the Flyers

Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_noah_cates.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Noah Cates is a prospect the Flyers 'can't stop bragging about'

The Flyers selected Noah Cates during the fifth round of the 2017 NHL draft, plucking him out of Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota with the 137th overall pick.

At the time, Brent Flahr, Chuck Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild were sitting at No. 147.

"A kid like Cates was right in our backyard," Flahr said. "One thing in Minnesota when you are there, you hate when Minnesota players, especially the good ones, go ahead of you."

Flahr can now thank Flyers amateur scout Nick Pryor. As the assistant general manager of the Flyers, Flahr no longer has to kick himself for missing out on Cates.

"Nick Pryor did a good job," Flahr said last month at development camp. "He was right near his house. They got him. He looks like a real good prospect for us."


(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

As a fifth-round pick out of high school, Cates was once well below the surface in the Flyers' prospect pool. With time and hard work, he's beginning to blossom — and the Flyers see it. 

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said. "He's quietly gotten better and better every year, and everything we ask him to do, he's doing it."

In 2017-18, Cates scored nearly a point per game (21 goals, 34 assists) over 60 contests with the USHL's Omaha Lancers. He then followed it up by playing an important role for 2019 national champion University of Minnesota Duluth, recording 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and a plus-12 mark through 40 games as a freshman.

What made the national title even sweeter was winning it alongside his brother Jackson Cates, for a school just shy of a 2½-hour drive from his parents Jeff and Jenny Cates.

"Awesome," Cates said. "I think they were at every game this year. It was so much easier for them that we were in the same spot, a couple hours from home. They're obviously so proud of us."

Couple his freshman year with a goal and two assists for the U.S. in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and it was a productive 2018-19 for Cates.

"Just grew so much, developed so much with the college game — living on my own, going to school and everything like that," Cates said. "Just an awesome year all around and capping it off with that national championship was so special with my family."

Cates is far from the skinny, offense-first player he was in high school. He's gone from 6-foot-1, 165 pounds to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. He's a smart, all-situation thinker — in large part because of his development with the Bulldogs and trust from head coach Scott Sandelin.

"My role kind of grew as the year went on, got more comfortable," Cates said. "A little bit of power play, some penalty kill, last-minute stuff — that's important to play in all those key situations, so important moving on to have that experience. To do it for a team like that, it was really special. I can't say enough good things about that program and the whole year in general. Coach Sandelin gave me a lot of opportunity and I'm so grateful for that opportunity and took advantage of it."

The Flyers noticed.

"He scored goals, he's on the ice when you're protecting leads, he's killing penalties," Samuelsson said. "He's a very rounded hockey player."

Cates said it's too early to tell how long he'll stay in school.

"When you're on a team like that and with a program like that, you don't want to leave too early and maybe hurt your career," Cates said, "especially with the opportunity that's in Duluth."

After all, there's no real rush. Flahr, Fletcher and the Flyers know him well.

"So happy to be in Philadelphia," Cates said.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development. They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

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.

More on the Flyers