The trio of Oskar Lindblom, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek has been the Philadelphia Flyers most effective line in recent weeks. A quick look at the grouping and you may assume that Couturier and Voracek are the ones driving the success of this line.
A deeper dive into the numbers shows that Lindblom isn’t just riding his linemates’ coattails; since Jan. 1, Lindblom has been the Flyers’ strongest play-driver, holding a 52.65 percent Corsi for, per NaturalStatTrick. Lindblom also holds a 1.87 points-per-60 rate at five-on-five over the course of the season, a mark that places him just outside first-liner territory and firmly in high-end second-liner territory, relative to the rest of the NHL.
The development of Lindblom is nothing to sneeze at. If this is truly who he is, and he still has room to grow, it will be a major coup for the Flyers considering he was only a fifth-round draft pick.
How Did Lindblom Get Here?
Lindblom was selected with the 18th pick of the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. At the time, he was viewed as a strong power forward prospect, but to be a true impact player at the NHL level he would need to work on his skating ability.
In his age-19 season in Sweden, he made the jump to the SHL, Sweden’s top pro league, where he scored 25 points in 48 games playing for Brynäs IF. He also chipped in three points in three playoff games.
Lindblom was loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL after his SHL season ended and continued his run of strong play scoring seven points in eight games. Simply reaching the SHL as a teenager is an impressive feat in and of itself, but holding his own against grown men at such a young age is always a good sign of things to come.
In his age-20 season, Lindblom established himself as a real impact prospect by scoring 47 points in 52 SHL games, including 22 goals. That number proved to be the third-highest point total for a 20-year-old in the history of the SHL and the fourth-highest point production in the SHL that season, earning him forward of the year honors.
His dominance continued into the playoffs, tacking on an additional 14 points in 20 games and leading Brynäs IF to the SHL final, where they lost in seven games to HV71. In May 2017, Lindblom signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers, assuring that he would be making the leap to North America.
Schenn Trade Opens Door to the NHL
Although many fans took note of Lindblom’s breakout performance, there seemed to be no direct path for him to join the Flyers, especially after winning the NHL Draft Lottery and securing the chance to select one of either Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick number two overall. That was until then-general manager Ron Hextall traded Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera and two first-round picks on the first day of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Suddenly, a middle-six spot on the NHL roster was vacated and earmarked by most fans to be given to Lindblom. He showed well in training camp, but Hextall took a patient approach and decided to send him down to the Phantoms to begin his North American pro career.
After a slow start, Lindblom eventually hit his stride and chipped in 34 points in 54 games with the Phantoms and earned a spot on the AHL All-Star team, filling in for injured teammate Danick Martel. On Feb. 19, 2018 Lindblom earned the call-up to the big club, and remained with the Flyers for the remainder of the season.
He again started slow, but certainly looked like he belonged in the NHL and found some real chemistry playing alongside Patrick down the stretch of the season. Unfortunately, he looked overwhelmed in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins and was demoted and eventually scratched from the lineup for the last two games of the season.
Lindblom earned a full-time role with the club during training camp prior to the start of the current season. A role that he has not only not relinquished, but has thrived in.
What Makes Him Successful?
If you watch Lindblom, you won’t see him burn defenders with speed or make highlight-reel dekes. He is very much a “do the little things” type of player who thrives on his high-end hockey IQ and raw strength. This combination makes it near impossible for defenders to beat him in puck battles and makes it seem like the puck is always bouncing his direction.
Whether it’s in the defensive zone snuffing out opportunities or in the offensive zone gobbling up rebounds in front of the net, Lindblom is always in the right position. He showed a knack for this in the SHL, scoring a ton of goals simply from being in the right place at the right time and capitalizing on his opportunities.
If he can maintain this kind of scoring pace, there’s reason to believe Lindblom can be a legit play-driving, 50-plus point winger, with the potential to pot 20-30 goals a year.
.@NHLFlyers Oskar Lindblom:
In games with 13+ TOI (31 games)
10g, 9a, 19p (26g, 24a, 50p pace)
In games under 13 TOI (28 games)
1g, 3a, 4p (3g, 9a, 12p pace)
— Alexander Appleyard (@avappleyard) February 20, 2019
Lindblom A Top-Six Fixture
Nothing about Lindblom’s play is fancy or flashy, but it’s effective, and the little plays that he makes add up over the course of a 60-minute game, all contributing to the Flyers pushing play in the right direction when he is on the ice.
If he can continue his yeoman’s work, he has already shown he can be a more-than-capable second-line winger in the NHL. If he continues to get better and perhaps adds another skating gear, he could be a lethal top-line caliber player who increases the value of everyone around him. All things considered, either is a good outcome for a fifth-round draft selection.