2020-21 Masterton Trophy: Oskar Lindblom, Patrick Marleau, Matt Dumba named finalists

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A feat to not overlook in unprecedented year, Lindblom is Masterton finalist originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Back in March, a grueling 17-game month for the Flyers, Oskar Lindblom was taken out of the lineup by head coach Alain Vigneault.

The healthy scratch wasn't for a lack of effort from the 24-year-old winger.

Lindblom was fatigued.

"I had a good conversation with Oskar this morning and I believe that he needs a reset," Vigneault said before his team's game on March 17. "I love the young man, but right now, his game and his energy level, what it seems to be, is not where it needs to be. So we're going to do a small, little reset here with him."

The next night, Lindblom delivered a two-goal game. He was working his way back into form after beating cancer last July and being shut down for two-plus weeks in February because of a bout with COVID-19.

Lindblom had been through a lot; in actuality, him just playing this season was an admirable feat in and of itself. He ended up playing a lot — in 50 of the Flyers' 56 games, putting up eight goals and six assists.

It's why Lindblom was voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association as one of three finalists for the 2020-21 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, an award given annually to "the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey."

The finalists were announced Tuesday as Lindblom was joined by the Wild's Matt Dumba and the Sharks' Patrick Marleau. The winner of the award will be announced during either the Stanley Cup semifinals or Stanley Cup Final.

"You talk to Oskar, he knows that he wants to do more, he wants to do more to help the team," Ian Laperriere, then-Flyers assistant coach and now head coach of the Phantoms, said in March. "Personally, I'll give him a longer break for what he's been through last year. Knowing what he's been through, he couldn't train, he lost muscle mass and even the training he did during the break, it's not enough [time] for what we went through."

Lindblom's life and career were rocked in December 2019, when the humble Swedish native received his diagnosis of Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones. Lindblom missed the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season as he fought for his life. He completed his radiation treatments last July at Pennsylvania Hospital and astoundingly returned to the Flyers' lineup for two games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs that September.

Lindblom has remained cancer-free and pushed himself through last offseason and the 2020-21 campaign to regain his strength and conditioning. With the crammed schedule of a 56-game regular season, on top of testing positive for COVID-19, it was challenging for Lindblom to feel like himself on the ice again.

"That schedule didn’t help because I felt like the recovery part was a big part that I was struggling with," Lindblom said last month. "I felt better in the end, but I still feel I have a lot more to give. I actually feel great to get back to work this summer, I'm excited for that because I know what I can do out there. When I'm in good shape, I know I can play well in this league. It's been a tough year both physically and mentally, so it's going to be nice to recover here and get back in shape like I once was."

Lindblom, who was also a finalist for the Masterton Trophy last season, had a special moment with his teammates in April on Hockey Fights Cancer night at the Wells Fargo Center. In warmups, the Flyers all wore purple and black No. 23 Lindblom jerseys and had Lindblom take a solo lap before joining him on the ice.

“Every time I look at him, I see a beautiful young man," Vigneault said in April. "I wish he had the same hairdo that he had last year, but it’s coming back. I have flashbacks sometimes of when we had to tell him in Denver that he had cancer — we didn’t quite know what type it was, but we had to send him back to Philly. Some of the flashbacks that I have are him every time he’d be around the team with no hair, smiling and being positive. I think it made everybody in our group — players and coaches and management that were close to Oskar — realize how important every moment is, to make sure that you're always at your best and doing the right things when you see someone go through that, such a wonderful person."

Last month, Lindblom said playing hockey again has been "unbelievable."

"I didn't know what to expect, if I ever could play again from the start," he said. "Just to play on the highest level in the world and I could still manage to do that, it's making me proud just to think about it. I feel great about myself and I know I've got some work to do this summer, but I'm proud of myself that I was able to play this year."

How Oskar Lindblom stayed #OskarStrong through his cancer treatment

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