Oskar Strong: Lindblom Has a Fighter’s Spirit
Oskar Lindblom has always had to fight for it. When you are a fifth-round pick in the NHL Draft, nothing is guaranteed. Chances are that if you are picked at that point of the draft, you are more likely to be forgotten than to make it to hockey’s top level.
But that’s not who Lindblom is. He always believed in his own abilities and started to make a name for himself over the years. It started to become clear that the next step for him was bringing his game from home in the Swedish Elite League to North America. When he did in 2016, it wasn’t long before he was at the top, making it to the NHL and solidifying a place on the Flyers roster in the 2018-19 season.
Lindblom now faces a different fight. It’s not one to reach the ultimate goal of playing in the NHL and achieving success. It is so much greater than that. It is a fight for life. The 23-year-old forward was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. He will miss the rest of this season.
It marks the beginning of a new journey for Lindblom, a journey to return to the game following his treatment. The news was shocking to see. Lindblom is simply a good guy. Teammates love him. Fans love him. He’s always friendly, always smiling, so vibrant and full of life. But underneath the surface is the heart and spirit of a fighter, someone who was never promised anything in the game.
This season, you started to see that. Lindblom came to camp in a different position. He was an established part of the roster. As part of the new regime from the front office to the coaching staff, there was an emphasis on giving young players an opportunity to play in greater roles. Lindblom ran with the opportunity and settled into a line with Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny to start the season. The line took off from the start.
Lindblom had three goals in the first five games of the season and five in the first eight. With 11 goals over his first 27 games, he was going to obliterate any totals he had set in his first full season in the NHL, where he scored 17 goals and had 33 points.
During Lindblom’s journey to the NHL, that potential was really always there. He was a teenager playing in Sweden’s top league, going up against professional athletes nearly twice his age. For prospects, it can be a difficult league to judge. Success is more determined by an ability to keep up with the demanding level of competition and not in offensive numbers. It’s not often that a teenager gets the chance to play important minutes and be among the leading scorers on the team.
With Brynas AF, he played in 37 games in 2014-15, his first season after being drafted by the Flyers, and scored eight goals and had 15 points. The next season in 2015-16, those totals increased to eight goals and 25 points in 48 games. Then there was the 2016-17 season, a breakout year for Lindblom. He scored 22 goals and had 47 points in 52 games. The next step was becoming clear. It was time to make the move to North American and join the professional ranks there. During the 2016-17 off-season, he signed his entry-level deal. By February the following year, he was in the NHL.
Even year to year, the hard work continued for Lindblom. There was always a chance to prove he belonged at this level. There were moments in his first full season where he was in a lesser role. He was a healthy scratch for one game. He spent time on the fourth line, getting limited minutes to be able to contribute. Throughout the year, his game continued to evolve and he became a reliable player on the ice in various situations. He showed he could be a strong penalty killer. He showed he could bring skill to his game. This season, there was a noticeable improvement to his skating.
It’s the approach that earns you respect in the league. The players who never stop working to improve their game and keep their place in the lineup are the hardest to play against.
Nothing changes for Lindblom on this new journey. He’s already had to fight to make it to the NHL and done so with a worker’s attitude and drive to succeed. Without a doubt, his new journey and fight to beat this disease is one he’s ready to face, too.