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With one Swedish goalie prospect set to come to North America, another will leave to play overseas.
Felix Sandstrom, a 2015 third-round draft pick of the Flyers, recently signed a one-year contract with TPS Turku to play in Liiga, Finland's top pro league. The 24-year-old Swedish native is a pending restricted free agent this offseason and the Flyers will retain his rights when they extend him a qualifying offer in July.
With the original uncertainty and eventual late start to the AHL season in 2020-21, Sandstrom started the year on loan to Vasterviks IK of the Allsvenskan League in Sweden. He then joined AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, finishing 5-3-3 with a 3.19 goals-against average and .903 save percentage through 11 games.
Sandstrom spent a good bit of the season on the Flyers' taxi squad and practicing with the big club. He played well over his final six outings with the Phantoms, going 3-1-2 with a 1.85 goals-against average.
"We've had ongoing talks with Felix and about the opportunities," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Monday. "Most importantly, he played really well at the end of the season. The most important thing for him is to make sure he's getting No. 1 goaltender ice time and he's doing everything he can to continue his development. The last month was a big step forward for him. We'll just continue to speak and see what the right solution is for him going forward."
Last week, the Flyers signed Swedish goalie prospect Samuel Ersson to his three-year entry-level contract. Alex Lyon, who has played parts of the last five seasons with the Phantoms, is a pending unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Flyers also have prospects Kirill Ustimenko (signed 2017 third-round pick), Ivan Fedotov (unsigned 2015 seventh-round pick) and Matej Tomek (unsigned 2015 third-round pick) in the system.
Ustimenko missed the 2020-21 season after undergoing surgery on his left hip to repair a torn labrum. The 22-year-old was on the Flyers' 31-man playoff roster in the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament last summer.
For Sandstrom's situation, it's never a great sign when a prospect aims to continue his development outside of the organization when he could be playing under the watch of its coaching and development staff. But perhaps both parties felt this would be Sandstrom's best bet at playing the most in 2021-22.
"You never can predict ice time," Fletcher said. "I think there's a strong possibility he would get a lot of ice time, but we have Ustimenko and Ersson and still making a decision on Alex Lyon, so you can't guarantee ice time. The important thing for Felix is that, whether it's here or over there, he gets an opportunity to play."
Another player in the Flyers' system that is set to play overseas in 2021-22 is forward David Kase, a 2015 fifth-round pick and also a pending restricted free agent. The Flyers are expected to retain his rights as he plays in his native Czech Republic for HC Sparta Prague.
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