Defenseman Robert Hagg and his best friend on the team, left winger Oskar Lindblom, are the latest Flyers to arrive in the area, complete their quarantines, and start working out at the club’s Voorhees practice facility.
They both traveled on separate flights from Sweden, and in the coming days, more teammates are expected to arrive as the start of training camp approaches. The NHL hopes to open camps Jan. 3 and start the season Jan. 13, but nothing is official as the league decides whether to play games in home arenas or use a hub city for each of the four divisions.
Lindblom’s arrival came with positive news on the medical front: He is still cancer-free. Lindblom’s girlfriend, Alma Lindqvist, announced the news Tuesday on Instagram, saying: “What a year! 369 days ago we found out that Oskar had cancer, and today we got to know that the scans are clear after his second checkup. *popping champagne*!!!”
» READ MORE: Flyers’ Oskar Lindblom still cancer-free
The left winger was not available to comment Wednesday, but Hagg was ecstatic about the news.
“I talked to him this morning — and I saw him this summer — and he seems to be himself,” Hagg said in a phone conversation Wednesday. “It seems he doesn’t worry at all right now and is just [happy] being back on the ice and being back with the guys and playing again. It’s a lot of fun to see.”
A year ago, Lindblom was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and he missed most of the season. When he left the Flyers and was hospitalized, he was tied for the team lead with 11 goals. After undergoing grueling chemotherapy treatments, Lindblom returned to the team and played in their final two playoff games against the Islanders in September.
Lindblom worked out and skated in the offseason without any setbacks, Hagg said. Hagg was asked if he thought Lindblom could return to the form he displayed early in the 2019-20 season.
“He battled through the chemotherapy treatment for six to eight months, so he’s going to [need] time to get back to where he was before,” Hagg said. “It’s not going to come overnight. I mean, he’s going to have to work his way back to the physical shape he was in before, and he’s going to get all the time he needs.”
Hagg said Lindblom has been “working his butt off” in the offseason to get ready for the season.
The two live about an hour away from each other in Sweden, “but we saw each four or five times this [offseason] and went on some road trips together. It’s been a lot of fun.”
As for Hagg, based on the way he was used over Shayne Gostisbehere in the playoffs, he appears to have a good shot to be in the regular defensive rotation. Hagg, 25, is coming off another quietly efficient season, one in which he had 13 points in 49 games, had a plus-14 rating, and was the Flyers’ most physical defenseman.
The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Hagg led the Flyers in hits (136) and was fourth in blocked shots (79) despite playing in only 49 games.
Hagg, a second-round selection in the 2013 draft, said he is not taking his spot in the lineup for granted.
“You never know,” he said. “I’m going to have to prove myself like everyone else. I need to play my best game to be able to play. We have a pretty stacked D corps, and now we have Erik [Gustafsson] here, too. He’s another Swede, so it’s really fun for me.”
With Matt Niskanen retiring, the Flyers signed Gustafsson to a one-year deal in October. In the offseason, Hagg worked out in Sweden with Gustaffson — something they have done during the last two years — and Flyers prospect Linus Sandin, a promising right winger who has been playing in the Swedish Hockey League and is expected to arrive in the area next week.
Hagg called Gutsafason a smooth puck mover and offensive defenseman whose “hockey IQ is on another level.”
“Compared to mine at least,” he deadpanned.