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Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Felix Sandstrom checks in at No. 21

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The first backstop chosen by the Flyers in the 2015 NHL Draft, Felix Sandstrom comes with encouraging scouting reports and an education from a Swedish goalie factory that has helped to produce numerous NHL goaltending prospects.

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Felix Sandstrom

Position: Goaltender
Birthdate: January 12, 1997 (18)
Acquired Via: 2015 NHL Draft - Round 3, Pick 70
2014-15 Team/League: Brynas SuperElit J20 - 2.63 GAA, .907 SV% in 14 GP
Nationality: Swedish (Gavle)
Size: 6'2", 192
Contract Status: None
Ranking in August 2014 25 Under 25: N/A

Entering the 2015 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers lacked much in the way of true organizational goaltending depth. Sure, Steve Mason has surprisingly re-established himself as an above-average NHL goaltender, and 2012 second rounder Anthony Stolarz has shown flashes of top-tier potential over the past three seasons. But beyond Mason and Stolarz, the Flyers lacked any real intriguing assets at the goalie position anywhere in the pipeline.

In round three, Ron Hextall began the process of rebuilding that pipeline with Felix Sandstrom.

Sandstrom was the third goaltender taken, behind Ilya Samsonov (Capitals) and Mackenzie Blackwood (Devils), but opinions were divided on the Swedish prospect. Skeptics pointed to his limited track record, due to intermittent injuries and a bout with mononucleosis, while calling him a fairly risky prospect. Fans of the Swede noted his composure and sound technique when considering him a top-tier goalie in the draft.

One such supporter was ESPN's Corey Pronman, who ranked Sandstrom as his top goaltender.

Sandstrom missed chunks of the season due to various ailments, after he came into the season as a top prospect. This lack of playing time has led to divisive stances within the industry, with some scouts claiming he's clearly good enough to go in the top two rounds and others stating he's more of a middle-round selection. Sandstrom has shown advanced play for several seasons and has impressive raw tools. He moves pretty well for a player his size, while not being erratic. His goaltender IQ grades high, as he tracks the puck pretty well and stays ahead of the play. Sandstrom is a roll of the dice, as its not outside the realm of possibility that he's in the NHL within three or four years, but his lack of playing time could scare teams.

Even the most unconvinced observers credit Sandstrom with extremely polished technique for his age. This should not come as a surprise, as Sandstrom has developed in the Brynas IF system under respected goalie guru Pekka Alcen. Brynas has become something of a Swedish goaltender factory in recent seasons.

As Bill Meltzer wrote for in 2012, Brynas saw six goalies since 2008 who spent time in their organization be drafted or signed by an NHL team - Jacob Markstrom, Anders Lindback, Joacim Eriksson, Eddie Lack and Niklas Svedberg. Since then, they've added two more, with Jonas Johansson drafted by Buffalo in the third round in 2014, and now Sandstrom by the Flyers this year.

Alcen gave a glimpse into the goaltending philosophy that has helped to develop Sandstrom in an interview with Hockeysverige, helpfully translated in Meltzer's article.

See [the puck], size it up, take action; there's no other secrets. I don't buy this, 'I didn't see the puck' talk, especially when killing penalties. As a goalie, you have an enormous responsibility and if you are going to do a good job, you always have to focus and track the puck. The whole time, the biggest thing is to try to see the puck regardless of where it goes. Then you'll have the greatest chance to make the save, also. Of course, there are also situations where it really is impossible to see the puck, and then all you can do is to make yourself as big as possible.

Considering Brynas' emphasis upon positioning and focus, it's easy to see how Sandstrom's technique could become a strength of his game. The next steps in Sandstrom's growth as a prospect will be to improve his quickness and to prove that he has the athleticism to match up with NHL shooters, in addition to simply staying healthy for a full season and developing consistency. He should have the opportunity for extended playing time with the Brynas U20 team this year, and his goal will be to earn quite a few starts with the big club as well.

Flyers fans got their first glimpse of Sandstrom in international competition this past week at the National Junior Team Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. In an encouraging sign for his participation in the upcoming IIHF World U20 Championship, Sandstrom started the first three games in net for Sweden.

He finished the camp with an unimpressive 0.843 save percentage, but his statistics were deflated by a disastrous performance in the second game, when he allowed 10 goals on 39 shots as his squad was totally overwhelmed by the United States. Sandstrom apparently impressed in his other two starts, though, stopping 46 of 50 shots for a solid 0.920 save percentage.

The good folks at Baseball Prospectus have a saying that goes, "There is no such thing as a pitching prospect," referring to the unpredictable development curve of pitchers in the minors. Goalies aren't much different. It takes most goaltenders years to reach their full potential, if they ever indeed do. But with Felix Sandstrom, the Flyers added a prospect who has received top-notch coaching and has flashed real potential at a young age. He'll likely spend at least a few more seasons in Sweden, and hopefully in a couple of years, Philadelphia will have a true blue-chipper on their hands.

How we voted for Felix Sandstrom:

Al Allison Andrew Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Mary Meseret Ryan Travis
N/A 19 21 20 17 25 19 20 N/A 25 21 N/A

Who we voted for at No. 21:

Al Allison Andrew Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Mary Meseret Ryan Travis
Valeri Vasiliev Matej Tomek Felix Sandstrom Mikhail Vorobyov Valeri Vasiliev Brandon Alderson Petr Straka Cooper Marody Valeri Vasiliev Anthony Stolarz Felix Sandstrom Cole Bardreau