PHILADELPHIA – Most players who anticipate getting selected in the NHL Entry Draft make it a point to be there.
Oskar Lindblom, thinking there wasn’t much of a chance, didn’t.
By age 18, the young forward’s stock had fallen so far he didn’t bother to make the trip from Sweden to Philadelphia for the big show.
On draft day 2014, the Flyers surprised a lot of people by taking Lindblom in the fifth round (138th overall).
Reason why Lindblom wasn’t thinking about the draft?
Well, scouts had made it known that his skating really wasn’t up to professional standards, at least the NHL variety.
So Lindblom was surprised as anyone when his cell phone rang in Sweden and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was on the line.
Fast forward to 2018 and Lindblom is off to a blazing start with the current Flyers. He’s coming off a great road trip, one in which he set up two big goals and scored another in Flyer wins (they finished the trip 3-0-1).
Coach Dave Hakstol says some of it has to do with maturity.
“He’s feeling it right now,’’ Hakstol said at Thursday morning’s skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “He’s got a little bit extra moxie to his game.
“The foundation of his game has always been there. With a little success, he’s been able to loosen up a bit. With that, you usually get a little more production and that’s what we’re seeing out of him.’’
The 22-year-old left wing managed to get into 23 games with the Flyers last year but only produced two goals and six points.
In 15 games this season, he’s already surpassed that with a 4-4-8 scoring line. Playing on the second line with Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek has helped his growth.
“Oskar is a very complete player,’’ Hakstol said. “He had good chemistry with ‘Patty’ last year down the stretch. The point production wasn’t there but that’s natural with young players.
“When he came to camp this year, he was a year more advanced, a year more mature, a little stronger, a little more confident in everything he was doing. He’s a little quicker, he’s been in that situation (winning puck battles) before. That all contributes to his success.’’
Lindblom seems to be taking it all in stride.
“The more games (his line) plays, we get better and better,’’ he said. “Last year, I really didn’t know what to expect when I got here. This year I was more comfortable, I knew what was going to happen.
“I thought I would make the team so I had good confidence that I was ready for camp.’’
Sometimes when players don’t get drafted until a later round (or not at all), they feel a bit of extra motivation.
“It didn’t matter a great deal to me because I felt I needed more time to develop back home,’’ he said. “I just had a mindset to show them I could be here.’’
Now about that draft day. . .
“I was back home,’’ he said with a smile. “The Flyers called me right after I got drafted. It was fun to see my name up there (on the board) but I knew I had a long way to go.’’
Judging by his performance so far, that journey might be just about over.
Gudas playing smarter
Ever since he received a 10-game suspension last year, Radko Gudas has been playing a much smarter brand of hockey.
In fact, going into Thursday night’s game against Arizona, he had only 10 minutes in penalty time over the first 14 games.
Considering he’s had PIM totals of 116, 93 and 83 since joining the Flyers, that’s a step in the right direction.
And with Andrew MacDonald injured and out of the lineup, the 28-year-old Gudas is setting a good example for the other young defensemen on the team.
“I was being penalized a lot and our penalty kill not being the greatest, they kind of go hand-in-hand,’’ Gudas said. “I watched a lot of video this summer, watched what I could work on, where to pick my spots.
“So far it’s paying off.’’
Was he worried that constant suspensions were affecting his game in a negative fashion?
“It wasn’t worrying me,’’ he said. “I want to be still effective (read, physical) for my team. It (how, when to hit) is a gray area in our game right now. You just have to do the best you can to stay within the lines.’’
Goaltender Brian Elliott (head injury) has been cleared to play but Hakstol said Cal Pickard was scheduled to make his third straight start. . .James van Riemsdyk (lower-body injury) skated with the morning group but did not take part in drills.