Only three goalies manned the net for the Flyers in 2021-22, and the one with the highest save percentage? Felix Sandström. He, of course, achieved this statistic by only playing in five games total.
The Flyers went 0-4-1 with Sandström in net despite his .910 save percentage and a 43-save performance in his NHL debut, an overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on New Year’s Eve eve.
After that debut, Sandström went back to the AHL and didn’t resurface again until April. He allowed 3 goals on 33 shots in a loss to the New York Rangers, a game where he received no supporting goals from the Flyers.
He then allowed 4 goals on 39 shots to the Buffalo Sabres, losing his third straight start.
The Flyers scored a single goal with Sandström in net again against Chicago, with Sandström again allowed 3 goals on 33 shots.
His final start of the year was another loss to the Winnipeg Jets, allowing 3 goals on 26 shots with no goals in support.
All in all, the Flyers scored just six goals in Sandström’s five starts last season, leaving him still seeking his first career win at the NHL level.
A more complete picture of Sandström’s season would include his AHL performance, where he had a decent year with the last place Phantoms, going 16-18-5 with a .903 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Lehigh Valley was 30th in the AHL in goals for, so there wasn’t much run support to go around at either level in 2021-22.
While there wasn’t necessarily a strong path towards an NHL career with the Flyers at the end of the 2021-22 season, one of the more unpredictable occurrences of the Flyers’ offseason has opened up a hole that he may be able to squeeze through. With Martin Jones having moved on to the Seattle Kraken, it was looking like Ivan Fedotov—one of the best KHL goalies and the proud owner of an NHL contract binding him to play for the Philadelphia Flyers—was a strong contender to back up Carter Hart. But thanks to a retaliatory move from Vladimir Putin, Fedotov was arrested for evading military service and was sent to Severomorsk, Russia to fulfill that “duty.”
One man’s life-ruining wrongful arrest by a raging authoritarian wreaking havoc on the world is another man’s fortune in this case, as the other options are now scarce. There’s 22-year-old Samuel Ersson, who made the move from Sweden to North America at the end of last season and will presumably spend his first season on the continent in Lehigh Valley. There’s 32-year-old career AHLer Troy Grosenick, who is coming off a strong .933 save percentage season in 30 games for the Providence Bruins, but is still a 32-year-old career AHLer. And then there’s Sandström, who got the first (and only) call up to the bigs last year amongst the organization’s goalers.
So, he’s moved up the depth charts and 2022-23 may just be the year where the Flyers really find out what they have in Sandström. Goalie performances from year to year seem impossible to predict, as do their age curve and expected peak, so while Sandström is already 25, there’s no rule that says he still can’t turn into a solid NHL goaltender. With the other options looking bleak, we’re likely about to find out if he can. Although, with this roster playing in front of him, we might also go another whole season without at least being able to celebrate Felix Sandström’s first career win.