VOORHEES, N.J. >> After a nice run last season in the Swedish Hockey League, Felix Sandstrom and Oskar Lindblom won’t be teammates next season but they are already looking forward to reuniting in Flyers uniforms.
Sandstrom, one of two goaltenders that Ron Hextall signed in the third round of the 2015 draft, will play one more season with Brynas IF of the SHL, the club that he helped lead to the brink of a league championship last spring.
With him on that club, which lost in overtime of Game 7 of the SHL championship series, was Lindblom, a Flyers fifth-round pick in 2014 who has spent three years bucking the odds and getting closer to where he is now...
Two months from a training camp from which he’s expected to emerge with a starting left wing spot for the big club.
At least that’s what Lindblom would expect of himself.
“I just felt like when I was drafted, I was a fifth-rounder, but I want to be a first-rounder; be that guy who plays on the Flyers one day,” Lindblom said Tuesday as the Flyers’ developmental camp was wrapping up at the Skate Zone. “So I just tried to bring that work (ethic) every day to the rink; be better every day and push it to the limits.
“I wanted to show everybody else that I can be here and play at this level. I have one more step to go now, to be part of the team, so I just want to go for it.”
Lindblom, who at 6-1 and 192 may be a third-line fit on the left side for the Flyers if all goes well in training camp, will turn 21 next month. What bodes well for him is that the Flyers have been and likely still are thin on left wing, the position that Lindblom made his own last season, when he scored 22 goals and registered 47 points in 52 games for Brynas.
He only scored one goal in that championship series, but remained a constant top-line threat in that Swedish series.
In a way, that may only heighten Lindblom’s preparation for what life could be like in the NHL.
“It was tough. My whole line struggled a little bit there in the finals,” Lindblom said. “We felt like we had more to give. But we had our chance, we lost in overtime in the last game. So it sucked, but that’s how it is. You just have to try to (appreciate) the whole season and just get tougher mentally.”
Sandstrom, who was on the bench for that Game 7 Brynas lost to a club called HV71 (which won 2-1 in overtime), will put in one more season there before focusing seriously on a professional future in North America. He’s expected to literally face-off with fellow goalie prospect Carter Hart — a second-round pick in 2016 — by the time camp is ready to commence in 2018.
Hart, who turns 20 next month, got the best of Sandstrom when Canada defeated Sweden 5-2 in the World Juniors tournament last January.
The near-miss in World Juniors and the subsequent tough loss in the SHL finals didn’t deter Sandstrom from taking that experience and running with it the rest of his hockey season.
“I had a couple of great experiences last year,” Sandstrom said. “That long playoff run with my team and the World Juniors. I think it was a really good season for me. I think that I got more confident after World Juniors. I think that brought me one step up in my game. I’m in a really good spot in Sweden with my team.
“I think that worked out really good last year and I think it will be good this season, too. My goal is to play a lot, help my team win, learn a lot more and keep on developing my game.”
He did just that with Lindblom during the season, and looks ahead to when they may reunite as Flyers not too far down the road.
“We had a really good team,” Sandstrom said of playing with Lindblom for Brynas. “We got better and better throughout the season. I really felt that we had something good that we could do. We were really close. It sucks to be so close, then to lose in the seventh game in overtime. But I think I learned a lot with that.”
One-time top prospect Scott Laughton, who had a comeback season of sorts with the Phantoms last season, is another forward expected to make a real pitch to make the big club out of camp (again).
Laughton signed a two-year contract extension Tuesday for $1.925 million, or a cap hit of $962,500. He will be a camp hopeful in a year where there should be some jobs up in the air.
Laughton, 23, had 19 goals and 39 points in 60 games for the Phantoms last season. He appeared in two games for the Flyers last season and has 109 games on his Flyers resume over parts of four seasons.