Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall locked up veteran goalies Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott for the next two years to serve as a bridge until one of the nine – yes nine – goalies in their system emerges as a potential and long-term No. 1 option.
Two of the leading candidates, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart, were on the ice over the weekend at the Flyers Development Camp and weighed on the possible future job openings.
Sandstrom claims he is not thinking much about them. His intention is to perform at his best each time he straps on his pads and blocker.
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Hart said he has barely paid attention to it. He’s more concerned about living in and worrying about the present.
Make no mistake, though. Each of the 19-year-old goalies has read the writing on the wall.
“For sure, it’s motivation to keep working,” Sandstrom said. “I am going to do my best to be able to be here in a couple of years.”
Hart plans on arriving even sooner.
“Coming into camp, the goal is stand out and make the [Flyers] this fall,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often but it’s something I really want and something I am working really hard for. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Anthony Stolarz was impressive in four starts last season as a rookie for the Flyers, but the organization is not as high on him as they are on Hart and Sandstrom.
Last season, Sandstrom posted a 2.25 goals against average (GAA) and .908 save percentage in the Swedish Hockey League and was named best goaltender at the World Junior Championships.
“It was a good season and good experiences to play at World Juniors and in the [SHL] playoffs,” said Sandstrom, a third-round pick in 2015. “I think it’s something I can bring with me into next season.”
In 54 games with the Everett Silvertips, Hart finished with a 1.99 GAA, .927 save percentage and was named the Western Hockey League’s top goalie.
After watching Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny make the team last year as 19-year-olds, both goalies know the Flyers aren’t afraid to commit to young players.
“If you have the talent, skill and work ethic, it doesn’t really matter how old you are,” Hart, a second-round pick in 2015, said. “You can win a job.”
That is what Sandstrom has in mind down the road. Despite his age, inexperience and two seasoned goalies signed for a combined $5 million over the next two seasons in front of him, it is exactly what Hart will attempt to accomplish this fall.
“I am really just looking at this summer and getting better,” he said. “My goal, though, is to make the Flyers, and that is what I am working for.”