While over in North America we’re preparing for tonight’s NHL draft lottery and another elimination game for the Phantoms, two Flyers prospects in Sweden were finishing up their seasons — and at least one of them has probably played his last game in the SHL for a while.
Forward Oskar Lindblom, a fifth-round pick in 2014, played in the final game of the Swedish Hockey League’s season today in Jönköping, Sweden, for Brynäs IF, dropping the contest in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in overtime to HV71. A power play for Brynäs came and went without a goal, and it wasn’t long after that until HV71’s Simon Önerud tucked the winner past veteran goalie David Rautio.
It’s noteworthy that Rautio was the one giving up that goal, as Flyers prospect Felix Sandstrom was on the Brynäs bench to see it happen. Sandstrom started four games in this series, picking up wins in the second and fifth games as Brynäs took a 3-2 lead. But he got off to a tough start in Game 6, giving up two early goals, and with that his season came to an end, as Brynäs coach Thomas Berglund put in Rautio and never looked back.
In the series, Lindblom posted just one goal in seven games, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying: he has 24 shots on goal in the seven-game series and had a number of chances that just missed. His playoffs as a whole, though, were outstanding; despite the relatively ineffective final, Lindblom was tied for third among all players in points in the playoffs, and tied with two other players for the league lead in assists. This was after a 22-goal, 25-assist showing during the 52-game regular season. Objectively, this was an outstanding season for Lindblom.
Meanwhile, Sandstrom’s year was a bit tougher to judge, as he split time with Rautio, but as one of the youngest goalies in the league, his .908 save percentage is a decent mark, one that improved upon his .904 from last year.
For the Flyers, the question is now how much longer until these two sign an entry-level NHL contract make their way over to North America , as both of them have SHL contracts that are up after this season.
Sandstrom, who split time with Rautio throughout the season and in the final series, seems likely to remain in Sweden for at least another year. He put forth an admirable showing for a 19/20-year old in the world’s third-or-so-best league (give or take) this season, but it was a showing that the Flyers will likely feel he’ll have a better chance to build upon with another year in Sweden. Also, the Flyers’ own goalie situation is pretty clogged up right now, with no obvious spots available at the NHL or AHL level once they go and get another NHL goalie (which Ron Hextall has said that they will do).
With Lindblom, however, the question seems to be less a matter of “will he or won’t he?” and more one of “does it take weeks, or days?”. Berglund has essentially already confirmed that Lindblom will be heading to North America once this season is over:
And that’s not surprising news, for a number of reasons. As mentioned, Lindblom was one of the best forwards in the entire SHL this season — no small feat for a 20-year old. Lindblom also had an outstanding showing in Lehigh Valley at the end of last year, coming in on an amateur tryout contract and posting 7 points in 8 games. (There was talk towards the end of last year that Lindblom would stay in North America for this season, but with him being under contract with Brynäs for another season, that was probably never in the cards.)
Hextall should be eager to have Lindblom in Pennsylvania next year, and the hope here is that he’ll end up spending most of his time in Philadelphia rather than Lehigh Valley. While there may be a slight adjustment period for a guy who’s played on the European ice surface for his entire career, and as such the team might prefer he begin the year with the Phantoms, Lindblom’s excellent showing in Lehigh Valley last year — however brief it may have been — does lend credence to the idea that hey may well be NHL-ready. As does the fact that he’s spent the last three years playing in a league against adults and has more than held his own.
(In the meantime, though, if the Phantoms are able to extend their playoff run a bit more, might we see him in the very near future? Baby steps, though.)
In any case, Hextall and the team will have a big decision to make with yet another exciting young player who’s primed to make an impact for the Flyers before long.