BOSTON -- With his blond hair, quick smile, and striking looks, Oskar Lindblom could probably be a model if he wanted.
Put the Flyers’ 6-foot-1, 191-pound left winger on the ice, however, and he makes opponents look ugly because of his ferocious forechecking and his knack for finding a soft spot in the defense and creating a scoring chance.
“He’s a real good skater,” new Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Very coachable. And he plays a real intelligent game, a north-south game. He goes to the tough areas.”
Lindblom, 23, is blossoming into one of the Flyers’ best all-around players, and his maturation began when he scored four goals in his last five games last season.
That, he said, made him much more comfortable heading into 2019-20.
“It bought confidence to this season,” he said. “I felt I could score in this league. I just wanted to work hard in the summer and come back and be the same player I was in the last [part of the season]. That’s the thing I was thinking about, and now I’ve started good and just have to keep going.”
In 17 games this season, Lindblom has eight goals, which is tied for the team lead with 22-year-old linemate Travis Konecny, and 14 points. He didn’t score his eighth goal last season until Game 54 on Feb. 9.
The last time two players 23 or younger led the Flyers in goals through 10 or more games: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, with six goals each through 10 games in 2007-08, according to the NHL.
The line of Lindblom, Sean Couturier, and Konecny has been the Flyers’ best unit, keying a 10-5-2 start going into Wednesday’s home game against powerful Washington.
Lindblom said he feeds off Couturier’s defensive play and Konecny’s energy.
Couturier “makes everyone calm. When he’s on the ice, you know you’re going to have a good defense,” said Lindblom, who has become adept at protecting the puck from opponents. “It starts from there and then we get good offense from there.”
As for Konecny, the class clown who keeps everybody loose on and off the ice, Lindblom said: “I love that guy. We’re almost the same age and I love to just hang out with him, too. We have good chemistry off the ice and I love playing with him on the ice. He’s a great player.”
Lindblom was a fifth-round steal (138th overall) in the 2014 draft, which had then-general manager Ron Hextall running things for the Flyers. (Hextall and his sidekick, Chris Pryor, took Travis Sanheim in the first round.)
“It’s nice to show even if you get drafted in the late rounds, you can be on this level,” Lindblom said. “… I felt like I was probably going to have a little more time to show I can be an NHL player, so I took that time and worked hard.”
Playing against men much older than him, Lindblom was named the Swedish Hockey League’s best forward in 2016-17 as he collected 22 goals (second in the league) and 47 points in 52 games.
In his next season, he got acclimated to the smaller North America rinks playing for Scott Gordon and the AHL’s Phantoms. He had 34 points, including 16 goals, in 54 AHL games and also played 23 games and collected six points with the Flyers.
Lindblom, who is close friends with teammate Robert Hagg, a fellow Swede, came on strong toward the end of last season and finished with 17 goals in his first full year with the Flyers.
Now he has Vigneault’s trust and is playing in all situations. Lindblom, a strong two-way player, loves Vigneault’s coaching style.
“He’s been around a long time and we have respect for him,” said Lindblom, who can become a restricted free agent in the summer. “He’s hard [on players], No. 1, and you have to be there every night [and be your best] if you want to play. Otherwise, you’re probably going to be on the bench. It’s a nice feeling. You can’t relax. That’s the dangerous part in this sport.”
In other words, you can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past.