Will Lindblom Be Available To Lehigh Valley Later This Spring?

Sweden's youthful winger Oskar Lindblom (# 26) from IF Brynas Galve competes for the loose puck with Russia' captain Pavel Datsyuk (# 13) from SKA St. Petersburg, the highly experienced 38-year-old veteran who racked up 918 points in 958 National Hockey League games over the course of fourteen seasons for the Detroit Red Wings, during the recent 2016 Channel One Cup international match which was played at the VTB Ice Palace in Moscow ..... (photo courtesy Artyom Korotayev / TASS)

Sweden’s youthful winger Oskar Lindblom (# 26) from IF Brynas Galve competes for the loose puck with Russia’ captain Pavel Datsyuk (# 13) from SKA St. Petersburg, the highly experienced 38-year-old veteran who racked up 918 points in 958 National Hockey League games over the course of fourteen seasons for the Detroit Red Wings, during the recent 2016 Channel One Cup international match which was played at the VTB Ice Palace in Moscow ….. (photo courtesy Artyom Korotayev / TASS)

der Eishockeyzuschauer

ALLENTOWN, PA

The annual American Hockey League All-Star Game is definitely coming to the PPL Center in Allentown later this winter but, after acquitting himself fairly well on his debut for Sweden’s senior national team at the 2016 Channel One Cup tournament held in Moscow last weekend, emerging winger Oskar Lindblom might not be returning for his second AHL stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms later this spring.

Lindblom, the fifth round pick (# 138 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2014 National Hockey League Draft who registered two goals and seven points in eight AHL games for the Phantoms at the end of last season, skated on the same line as Sweden’s most accomplished offensive threat in all three of Tre Kronor’s games at the 2016 Channel One Cup and was on the ice for exactly one half of the eight total goals that the Swedes scored at this particular tournament. The 20-year-old who is having a very productive season for IF Brynas Gavle as the second-leading scorer in the entire domestic league was also credited with a goal on his formal senior international debut after his dangerous centering pass from behind the net was inadvertently turned into his own net by backchecking Russia winger Vladimir Tkachyov, the 21-year-old winger from Kontinental Hockey League club Admiral Vladivostock who was also skating in his first contest for his country’s senior national team. Lindblom almost netted a vital third period goal in the Swedes’ final tournament game against the Czech Republic, too, but a promising chance taken in the slot between the two faceoff circles whistled only just wide of the net guarded by Pavel Francouz of KHL club Traktor Chelyabinsk, the 26-year-old who has been on three of the last four Czech squads to appear at the annual IIHF World Championship.
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Sweden and Russia actually finished with level with six points after posting identical records of two wins in regulation against one loss in regulation but Tre Kronor were crowned champions of the Channel One Cup for only the fourth time ever in the 49-year-old history of this competition on the basis of having beat Sbornaja 3-1 in the head to head meeting between the two teams held on the tournament’s opening day. The forerunner of the Channel One Cup, of course, was originally staged in 1967 by the since dissolved Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the so-called great October Revolution and later went by the name of its Izvestia newspaper sponsor for a quarter of a century. The annual tournament, which during the Soviet era was considered to be the ultimate dress rehearsal for the Winter Olympic Games, has had no less than four different sponsors since 1997 but the Channel One television station has provided the necessary financial backing for the past eleven years.
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Aside from the simple fact that national team of Sweden have traditionally always had an incredibly difficult time attaining a positive result against the Soviets / Russians in Moscow, the tournament victory at this year’s Channel One Cup was especially satisfying ¬†because Tre Kronor had lost all three of its games at the preceding Karjala Cup hosted by Finland at the beginning of November. Not surprising, Sweden national team trainer Rikard Gronborg made several changes to his squad for the trip to Moscow by dropping both goaltenders including Niklas Svedberg, the former Providence Bruins backstop who is pocketing $ 1.3 million dollars to play for Russian KHL club Salavat Yulayev Ufa this season, as well as six of the seven defensemen who had appeared with Tre Kronor in Finland. Also replaced were ten of the seventeen forwards who skated for Sweden at the Karjala Cup although two of those moves were made as a result of injury to a pair of American Hockey League alumni, Patrik Cehlin (Milwaukee Admirals) and Johan Sundstrom (Bridgeport Sound Tigers).
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As is customary for all such European sides at this time of the year, Swedish coach Gronborg’s team for the Channel One Cup tournament comprised of a mixture of already established national team veterans not currently skating for NHL clubs, players with a measure of national team experience who are hoping to prove they deserve to be called to the colors more often and untried youngsters like Lindblom seeking to demonstrate they can effectively compete at the senior international level.
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Obviously aside from players such as Lindblom who have already been drafted by National Hockey League clubs, Philadelphia Flyers rookie Roman Lyubimov offers living proof that it is wise for all NHL organizations to pay attention to what transpires in Europe, particularly at the international level. Bear in mind that the 24-year-old right wing from CSKA Moscow who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Flyers this summer had really on skated in three of the seventeen games that the national team had contested last term before becoming a surprise selection for the Russian squad which went on to claim the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Championship last spring. One should also remember that Lyubimov, who has already been demoted to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on paper twice this season but has not actually played at the American Hockey League level, had never been called up by Russia’s senior national team prior to the 2015/16 campaign.
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Russia, who won all three of its games while decisively outscoring the opposition 11-3 at the 2016 Karjala Cup held in Helsinki, kept its defensive corps largely intact but included former NHL superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk from SKA St. Petersburg for the first time this season. Kovalchuk, the 33-year-old sniper who is the highest paid player in the entire Kontinental Hockey League with his $ 5.5 million dollar salary for this season, was left off the roster for both the 2016 IIHF World Championship as well as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey despite his copious amount of national team experience (141 games, 57 goals, 127 points). Datsyuk, the four-time Olympian with two Stanley Cup rings who showed quite well at the 2016 IIHF WC (one goal, ten assists in ten games), is reportedly tied for the honor of being the second-highest paid player in the KHL this term with his $ 4.5 million dollar salary.
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Datsyuk and Kovalchuk skated on the same line at the Channel One Cup with SKA teammate Sergei Plotnikov, the 26-year-old winger who had an unsuccessful 2015/16 NHL season that was divided between the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Arizona Coyotes. After being held off the scoreboard in the disappointing loss to the Swedes, all three SKA St. Petersburg players each tallied a goal as Russia rebounded by defeating the Czech Republic 5-1 in the second tournament contest for each country. Kovalchuk also notched what proved to be the winning tally when Russia twice built a two-goal lead before holding off late charging Finland 4-3 on the final day of competition in Moscow.
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Sweden made certain of its fate at this 2016 Channel One Cup by dispatching traditional arch-rival Finland 4-2 in what was also the second tournament contest for each country, as well. Sweden captain Erik Gustafsson, the 28-year-old former Adirondack Phantoms and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman who now skates in the KHL for Russian club Avangard Omsk, set Tre Kronor on the right path by opening the scoring and notching his just second career goal on his 43rd international appearance in the process. Magnus Nygren, the 26-year-old defenseman from BK Farjestad Karlstad who had two different spells in the AHL with the defunct Hamilton Bulldogs, netted the game-winner against the Finns with what was his fifth career goal in his 33rd game for Sweden.
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Interestingly enough, the Swedes’ game-winner against the Russians was scored by Simon Bertilsson, the 25-year-old blueliner from IF Brynas Gavle who was the 3rd round pick (# 87 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2009 NHL Draft. As it was, defensemen accounted for fifty percent of all Tre Kronor’s goals at this 2016 Channel One Cup. Youthful rearguard Emil Johansson, the 20-year-old from IF Djurgarden Stockholm who was the 7th round pick (# 206 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2014 NHL Draft, had Sweden’s only goal in the 4-1 loss to the Czech Republic on the final day of the tournament, a result that never mattered.
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A noteworthy netminder in two of Finland’s three games at this event was none other than Joni Ortio, the 25-year-old now with Swedish club AIK Skelleftea who was actually the starting goaltender for the visiting Adirondack Flames when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms played their very first American Hockey League game at the brand new PPL Center in Allentown on October 17th, 2014. Ortio was in between the pipes for Finland’s 4-2 win over the Czech Republic as well as the loss to the Russians but was left on the bench for Suomi’s contest against Sweden. Miro Aaltonen, the 23-year-old winger from Russian KHL club Vityaz Podolsk who was the 6th round pick (# 177 overall) of the Anaheim Ducks at the 2013 NHL Draft, struck for a pair against the Czechs and ended up as the scoring leader at the 2016 Channel One Cup with four goals and five points.
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Kovalchuk finished in a tie for second with four points along with Sweden’s Linus Omark, the highly skilled 29-year-old winger now of Russian KHL club Salavat Yulayev Ufa who once skated in 79 NHL games for the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres before going back overseas. Omark was limited in North America by his lack of size (5’10” 181 lbs) as well as defensive inclination but has always been a very creative playmaker and is now something of a penalty shot expert. To be put on the same line as a player of that magnitude who now shows 63 points from 80 international games by the Swedish national team coaching staff says a lot for Lindblom, who most likely did enough at the 2016 Channel One Cup earn another look from Tre Kronor later this season.
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The Karjala Cup and the Channel One Cup are two of the four international competitions which comprise the so-called “Euro Hockey Tour” involving Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. The Swedes will host a tournament that commences on February 9th and then the Czechs will be staging an event that begins on April 27th. There will also be various international exhibition matches later this season but prior to the start of the 2017 IIHF World Championship, which is being co-hosted by the German city of Cologne along with the French city of Paris and opens on May 5th.
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In other words, depending upon how his development with the national team pans out, the promising Lindblom just might be entirely too busy in Europe to be able skate in the American Hockey League for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms even after the Sweden’s domestic elite league concludes in early March (to be followed by playoffs, naturally).


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