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.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011.

Team Canada names Sean Burke GM for 2018 Olympics
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach.

Sabres re-sign goalie Lehner to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils re-sign 3 restricted free agents
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.