Philadelphia Flyers 2023-24 Player Preview: Felix Sandstrom

Apr 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom (32) against the Boston Bruins during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Felix Sandstrom (32) against the Boston Bruins during the first period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Tick tock, Flyers fans, tick tock. That sound means that the clock is ticking down for one of the team’s goalies. It could be Carter Hart. After all, he’s been the subject of a lot of rumors and speculation all offseason. This time, however, it isn’t him. It’s not Cal Petersen either. Although to be honest with you, his clock is most likely ticking even louder than Hart’s as this year could be his last to prove he belongs in the NHL. Nope, the clock you hear ticking belongs to none other than Felix Sandstrom. If there is any goalie in danger of losing his job on this team, it’s going to be him.

Sandstrom was a third-round pick in 2015. Yes, this was a Ron Hextall pick, but 2015 was surprisingly a decent year for him as he selected Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny in the first round. And with Hextall’s experience, you’d have thought he’d select a great netminder.

To be fair, Sandstrom’s stats look impressive at the junior level. He played for Brynäs IF, a second-tier team in Sweden in the under-20 league. In his first year with Brynäs, he went 10-4 with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .907. In his second season, after being drafted, he went 10-14 with a GAA of 2.61 and a save percentage  of 0.904. In 2016-17, his stats improved to 14-7, 2.25, and 0.908. Not too shabby. He appeared as if he could be the next great Swedish goaltender. He had also just turned 20 years old.

He got promoted to the upper tier Swedish League and began to play for HV71 in 2017-18. He played in just three games in his first season there. In his second season, he went 10-8 with a GAA of 2.16 and a save percentage of 0.910. This caught the eye of the Flyers and they brought him to North America. He played in one game for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and then started the next year with the ECHL Reading Royals.

Here is where the story starts to change. He struggled in the ECHL, going 13-11 with a 3.27 GAA and a save percentage of .885. Then COVID happened and he went back to Sweden for a five-game stint. In 2020-21, he returned to the USA and played for the Phantoms. While his GAA was still high (3.19), he had seemingly brought his save percentage back down to a respectable 0.903. The following year, his save percentage stayed at a consistent .902, but he restored his GAA to a healthy 2.89. He also got a late season call up to the Flyers when Hart was shut down due to injuries. In five games, none of which he won (but remember, it was a bad Flyers team), had a 0.910 save percentage to go with a 3.23 GAA.

At the start of the 2022-23 season, the Flyers decided that Hart didn’t need any more mentoring. Instead of having an older vet like Martin Jones or Brian Elliott be Hart’s backup, it was expected that Sandstrom would fill in for Hart and the two would be a young goalie tandem that would produce. However, Sandstrom got hurt during preseason.

Sandstrom recovered and made the opening day roster, but didn’t perform well. When Hart got hurt in December, Sam Ersson filled in and looked like he could be the next goalie of the future. Ersson began to get starts and wins while Sandstrom seemed to struggle in many of his appearances. All told, Sandstrom appeared in 20 games for the Orange and Black, posting a 3-12-3 record with a GAA of 3.72 and a save percentage of 0.888.

To be fair to Sandstrom, last year’s Flyers team had a lot of injuries to deal with and just sloppy, inconsistent play from much of the defense. However, Hart and Ersson had the same squad in front of them. Hart had a good year, stats wise, and Ersson’s stats are more in comparison with Hart’s than Sandstrom. Hart also had two shutouts in 55 games while Ersson earned one himself. Sandstrom….nope. In fact, even though the team was lousy in front of him, he made a lot of mental mistakes, bad play calls, and let in some soft goals.

This is why Sandstrom’s clock is ticking. He’s 26 and will turn 27 come January. He’s done well overseas, but has had some issues in North America. While he seemed to bounce back in the AHL, he hasn’t shown a lot in Philadelphia. Like Hart, he’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

While Petersen really needs a good season to show he belongs in the NHL, be it with the Flyers or some one else, Sandstrom’s career is also on the block. Ersson has proven he has what it takes to perform at the NHL level. He’s younger and waiting in Lehigh Valley. The Flyers have three other prospects (Carson Bjarnason, Yegor Zavragin, and Ivan Fedotov) that they could, in theory, be turning to in the next two or three or four years. The team may extend Hart or trade him away for other assets. Where does this leave Sandstrom?

As of right now, he’s cheap. As the third string goalie, he’s making just $775,000. That’s also less than Ersson  and Fedotov. That’s also less than another prospect: Alexei Kolosov, who is on loan with the Dinamo Minsk and was drafted by Philly in 2021. While cheap is nice, talent is better. If Sandstrom can’t cut it, there are several guys who can take his spot in between the pipes right now. And if he can’t cut it, it’s doubtful another NHL team will take a chance on him.

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Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock….Sandstrom’s on the clock. What he’ll do with his time is up to him. First things first. Sandstrom needs to have a strong training camp to prove he can be a better backup to Hart than Petersen can be. If he can secure that spot, that will go a long way into figuring out what his future will be. Edging out a vet like that will help his cause out a lot. If the Flyers do decide to move Hart, a strong showing in training camp could convince Daniel Briere and company to hold onto him a bit longer.