Philadelphia 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.

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)

Claude Giroux's left wing tryout heads to Madison Square Garden

Claude Giroux's left wing tryout heads to Madison Square Garden

VOORHEES, N.J. — Claude Giroux said he doesn't know what to expect.

The one thing we can expect is the left wing experiment to hit the Madison Square Garden ice.

Throughout training camp practices, the Flyers have dabbled with their top-line center shifting to the wing. They're now ready to try it in game action, head coach Dave Hakstol said Sunday, when the Flyers visit the Rangers Monday night for the fifth exhibition contest.

Giroux hasn't thought much of the move but he's been more than open to allowing the coaches to give it a test run.

"Hopefully get the puck a little bit more," Giroux said after practice. "We'll see.

"If it happens tomorrow and it goes well, it's obviously an option that we're going to look at this year."

In 2016-17, Giroux scored a career-low 14 goals for a full season. His 58 points marked a fourth straight drop-off. Despite playing all 82 games, he did not look or sound healthy for much of the season. At 29 years old, playing the wing could relieve some of the physical demands of playing center, both offensively and defensively. It could also free up Giroux for greater looks and alleviate the pressure to make plays, while instead creating and finishing from a separate perspective.

"Entering the zone, he's got so many different options," Hakstol said. "He's a guy that can make plays on his backhand entering the zone, he can open up the top of the offensive zone by taking — if there's soft ice available inside of the line, he can delay and make plays back through the middle. He's got so many options there that he's able to create because of his skill set. And defensively, coming off that left side, it's a good spot for him — coming out of our zone and through the neutral zone."

If all goes well Monday, how much would that change moving forward?

"Everything that we have in place has a purpose to it," Hakstol said, "and I'll leave it at that."

Giroux has played winger before in the past — and produced — so this switch is not new or a substantial adjustment. To him, it's all about simplifying.

"Game is still the same," Giroux said. "There's not much different to center and winger. Obviously breakouts, you're on the boards, but offensively, you're kind of all over the place, so it doesn't really matter."

During practice, Sean Couturier centered Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the first unit. That's the expected line for Monday night, although Hakstol said Sunday's practice combinations could differ from the ones they'll utilize in the game (more on the lines here).

With Giroux on the wing, an aspect to watch is the faceoff circle. How the position change factors into the number of draws Giroux takes is uncertain.

"I think that depends on the coach," Giroux said. "I think I'll obviously take faceoffs on the power play and then a couple on the PK. And on my strong side 5-on-5, I'm sure I'll be taking a couple. With the new rule, a lot of centermen get kicked out, so it's good to have me and Coots on one line."

As for everything else in regards to the wing, Giroux will know more once he has the answers to the questions.

"I can't really judge on it until I actually have a game under my belt," Giroux said.

The game evaluation begins at the Garden.