It’s been a quiet offseason on the Philadelphia Flyers front. That silence was due in part to the fron toffice banking on some of their returning stars to pick up some of the load instead of looking outside the organization for help. Right now, forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick are both expected to return to the lineup during the 2021 season. They will both be welcomed back to the team with open arms, but it is critical to not expect too much from the young players out of the gate.
Nolan Patrick, now 22 years old, hasn’t played a professional hockey game since April 2, 2019, a full 21 months if he’s cleared to play on opening night, January 13. Lindblom played 34 minutes and 12 seconds in two playoffs games, the only on-ice exposure he’s had since December 7, 2019.
Chuck Fletcher has raved about both players in limited skating before training camps started.
Fletcher spoke of Lindblom during his christmas eve sermon-
“He’s doing really well, Obviously, he was cleared to return to play in the bubble and he played two games in there. Since that time, he’s had a tremendous offseason. He’s been able to rebuild his body, if you will, and regain some of the muscle mass he lost during his treatments last spring and summer. He’s in a really good shape physically.”
Continuing on about Patrick-
“Nolan, I watched him skate today; he’s an amazingly talented young man, he looked great, feels good. We’ll wait for the doctors to meet with him for the preseason physical. Life is unpredictable, we saw that last year. I certainly can’t make predictions on anybody, but I think we’re in a good shape going into camp and we’re excited to get these two players back.”
At their peaks, there’s no denying both Patrick and Lindblom possess enough talent to succeed at the NHL level, but the question becomes what to expect from the returning players for the 2021 season?
If you take a stroll through Flyers twitter, you’ll see Cheetos Flamin’ Hot levels of spicy takes from fans. Anything from Nolan Patrick leading the team in goals to Lindblom earning the top line left wing spot out of camp. While it’s great to aim high and having hope the young players will succeed, it’s also not realistic.
Nolan Patrick was an interesting player during his first two seasons in the NHL. Slow started marred by an injury with flashes of brilliance only to slowly but surely figure things out and end the year with some impressive performances leaving a great taste in your mouth for the following season. He posted 13 goals twice and has a career high of 31 points. One can argue he was overwhelmed early in his career at 2C, a problem which Chuck Fletcher solved when he signed Kevin Hayes last summer, a situation that may work out even better if Patrick can eventually hone his two-way game as the team’s third line center.
Oskar Lindblom’s cancer diagnosis struck at maybe the most inconvenient time, as he was in the middle of a breakout season. The 23-year-old posted 11 goals in the team’s first 30 games, easily on pace to smash his previous career high of 17. Add in his strong two-way play and he was easily lining himself up to become one of the next stars in Philadelphia.
When Lindblom returned to the lineup during the playoffs, he primarily played on the fourth line, simply as a way to allow him to play without putting him in any serious competition. With a full offseason to train and add muscle mass, which by all accounts he has, he may be ready to take on the full-time grind of a top-six NHL role. The concern for Lindblom is that he won’t pick up exactly where he left off. Chances are he may take weeks to months to get his feet back under him and adjust to the game.
With two of the team’s brightest young players scheduled to return when the 2021 puck drops, there’s plenty of reason to be excited. But that optimism should come with a shred of caution until both players can prove they have returned to the state they were in before their departures. Right now, think of both players returning as a major win in of itself. Then take every extra stride forward as a step toward the ultimate goal of successful NHL careers.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: courierpostonline.com bostonglobe.com