Ever since being drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2014, Oskar Lindblom has emerged as one of the more under-appreciated two-way forwards on the Flyers, despite a solid career as a two-way forward overseas. While in Sweden, Lindblom was named the 2016-17 Swedish Hockey League Forward of the Year, a tremendous honor in one of the best professional hockey leagues in the world.
Last year, in just his second NHL season, Lindblom notched 33 points in 81 games, including 17 goals, and really showed why he is capable of being a top-six forward in the NHL. The 23-year-old Swede constantly won battles up against the boards, showing off his speed and strength to protect the puck. He is an all-around well-rounded player with a 6'1" frame that he can use to his advantage.
During training camp, James van Riemsdyk had nothing but positive remarks for his young teammate.
"He’s extremely versatile, we’ve seen the different things that he can do," van Riemsdyk said. "He can play with really skilled players, he’s got that skill and that mind for the game, and that allows him to do a lot of different things out there -- whether that’s playing a shutdown role or playing an offensive role."
In the season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, Lindblom started off on the right note by showing how versatile he was. He scored his first goal of the season -- albeit a fluky one bouncing off of defenseman Slater Koekkoek -- while getting five shots on net in 16:33 of ice time, significantly more than his 13:45 average ice time from the previous season. Not only did he do all the rights things against Chicago, he seemed very confident with the puck, making great passes to his linemates Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny on the second line. The early chemistry he has with Couturier and Konecny shows as he looked much stronger skating wise, and defensively.
"You have to start in the right end, play good defense and go from there," Lindblom said during Flyers training camp. "It’s a long season and you have to be there every day, do your thing, and then you’re going to play and hopefully score some goals."
The next step for Lindblom is to do enough to stay on the second line, and have an even better season to help provide a spark for Philadelphia whether it’s even-strength play, part of the power-play unit, or on the penalty kill. He did receive some ice time on both special team units in the season opener, certainly a step in the right direction to keeping a significant role.
New Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault recently noted how important playing both sides of the puck are.
"What I see is a young man that has got a lot of energy, wants to learn how to play the right way," Vigneault said. "It's not just about offense, he wants to defend and he wants to defend well. A skilled player like that has got to be allowed to try different things, but there are times in a game where your decisions with the puck permit you to continue and go on the attack. The wrong decisions make the other team attack."
Well, Lindblom certainly showed that he was in attack mode against Chicago, and does not look like he will slow down any time soon.