Alex Appleyard provides weekly updates of Flyers prospects in Europe here at Sons of Penn. You can find him on Twitter at @avappleyard for live updates and conversation regarding the young guns overseas and the big club here at home in Philadelphia.
Earlier today we looked at the Flyers European forwards flourishing across the pond, but now it’s time for the blueliners and netminders.
David Bernhardt (defenseman)
After spending the last month or so mainly playing at the top Swedish junior level, Bernhardt was recalled to the big club this week. His opponents in the J20 will have breathed a sigh of relief, the big blueliner was uncontainable at the lower level, and was outscoring all but five forwards in the league on a game by game basis.
The downside of his recall? He is not getting that much ice time. Djurgården are in a tooth and nail battle to climb into the SHL ‘play-in’ spots – only two points separate them from the final spot – with only eleven games left, though this week was not particularly successful in that regard, as they lost both games they played.
Bernhardt only played one game this week, a 2-1 overtime loss against Rögle in which he played a little over four minutes and was +0. I imagine, however, that next week he is back down in the J20.
Ideally Bernhardt would be loaned to the Allsvenskan for the rest of the season, he is far too good for the J20 and is struggling to get into the SHL line-up when the defense is fully fit. However, the fact he is the teams eighth best defenseman at very worst is likely preventing this from happening, as in case of an injury he will be up full-time playing as the seventh defenseman and on the second power-play unit.
SHL: 27gp, 2g, 5a, 7p, +7
CHL: 4gp, 0g, 0a, 0p, +0
J20 SuperElit: 11gp, 6g, 8a, 14p, +5
Linus Högberg (defenseman)
Högberg has seen big minutes recently since being loaned out to Björklöven in the Allsvenskan. So far he has played two games for the Northern Swedish team. In his debut last week his ice time steadily increased over the course of the game, until by the time the final period rolled around – with Björklöven chasing a one-goal game – the Flyers prospect was on the first pairing. He played just under 19 minutes across the whole game in a much needed 2-1 victory, but in the third period played over seven minutes. Högberg also got off two shots on goal, including one that forced a rebound.
His second game for his new club came two days later, against AIK. This game was not as successful for Björklöven – who are embroiled in a relegation battle – resulting in a 2-0 loss. Högberg however saw an impressive 22:12 time on ice, he was -1, but had little to do with the goal against. The agile defenseman also came close to an assist in the third period, firing a hard shot from the right boards that created a goal-mouth scramble.
Björklöven played one more game this week – a 5-3 victory on Wednesday – but Högberg would not play in the game. Though his absence was not one to cause concern, as the young defenseman was called up to the Sweden under-19 team to play in the five nations tournament in Switzerland.
So far the tournament is half-way through, and Sweden have won both games, beating Switzerland 6-0 on Tuesday and 6-3 against the Czechs on Wednesday. Högberg played on the first pairing in both games, and was also a PK fixture. However, the all-around defenseman has so far been unable to pick up a point in those games and is -1, despite firing four shots on goal and seeing extensive ice-time. His involvement in the tournament – and the fact he has seen first pairing minutes – indicates that he is likely considered a shoe-in for next years World Juniors.
SHL: 35gp, og, 4a, 4p, +0
Allsvenskan: 2gp, 0g, 0a, 0p, -1
CHL: 11gp, og, oa, +3
SuperElit: 11gp, 1g, 8a, 9p, -2
Felix Sandström (goalie)
Over the last six months the agile netminder from Sweden’s East coast has cemented his status as one of the best goalie prospects on earth. Becoming a split-starter in the SHL last year was impressive, but his improved SHL play this season combined with his immense World Juniors performance has catapulted his name into not only Flyers fans minds, but also hockey fans from around the world.
In his only game this week Sandström showed just why his name is one that can be put alongside that of virtually any other young goalie on earth. Against Luleå last Saturday he put in a performance that any SHL goalie would have been proud of. Sandström turned away 25 of the 27 shots he faced, including several impressive stops in close and with traffic in-front. The two goals that he allowed he was close to blameless for.
The first goal against was the result of a bad-turnover from his defense, resulting in a one-timer from the low-slot. The puck nestled right in the top corner, a miracle would have been the only way to stop it. The second goal that got past the young Flyers prospect was once again far more on his defense than him. Sandström stopped three chances in quick succession in close, but none of his defenseman got back properly to clear the crease, leaving diminutive winger Kevin Clark exposed against two forwards crashing the net. The result was a rebound being slammed home on the fourth try.
There is no doubt that Sandström has had his ups and downs over the course of the season, but on the fifteen games he has played he has put up an sv% around the SHL’s average, and has but in several performances of the highest level. Sandström has still not got a contract for next season, and it should be interesting to see over the next ten weeks if anything develops in that regard. If not expect to see the talented goalie moving across the pond and signing an ELC as early as April.
SHL: 15gp, 10w, 3l, 2sol, .909sv%, 2.20 GAA
Ivan Fedotov (goalie)
If you have been following the gigantic Russian goalies season so far you will know he has spent more time on the bench and in the press-box than he has on ice. However, over the last week Fedotov has finally been given the chance to play in actual hockey games for the first time in months. He has not disappointed. The towering prospect helped his side to two dominant wins, last Thursday he stopped 18/19 shots in a 5-1 blow-out, and two days later stopped 16/17 in a 6-1 demolition. Two games in three days where the Flyers prospect managed to put up over .940sv%.
Hopefully that spurs on the Toros Neftekamsk management to trust the youngster to play more going forward – but I would not be so sure – in late November and early December Fedotov played lights out over five games in a three week stretch, but his reward was to be sat for almost two months.
It has been quite apparent that performance has not been the driving factor in selection this season, or Fedotov would be the undisputed starter. The two goalies who have generally split starts over the season, with 21 games played each, are Khomchenko and Litvinov, who have a .902sv% and a .920sv% in their games.
Fedotov is likely thankful that Litvinov’s contract expires at the end of the season, as it means next year he should be the de facto starter – though hopefully he can force his way into the minds of his KHL parent-club Salavat Yulaev Ufa by then.
VHL: 7gp, 5w, 2l, .931sv%, 1.72 GAA
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