The Future Flyers Report lives to see another week.
With the AHL regular season now over-- spoiler alert: the Phantoms clinched a playoff berth -- and the CHL and SHL playoffs ongoing, there is still plenty of hockey to discuss.
So before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects still playing. This week, we'll feature a goalie who suffered a season-ending injury and a pair of Swedes who find themselves in the SHL final.
Anthony Stolarz, G, 23, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
While the Phantoms clinched their playoff ticket last Wednesday night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins, they did so at the expense of Stolarz, who suffered a serious lower-body injury and was seen on crutches after the game.
After Lehigh Valley clinched home ice in the first round last Friday with a comeback 5-4 win over Providence, coach Scott Gordon confirmed Stolarz will miss the postseason and will be out three-to-four months, according to Highland Park Hockey's Tony Androckitis.
With his season over -- one that saw a few call-ups and NHL games -- Stolarz now heads into the summer with several questions to be answered. Since the Flyers re-signed Michal Neuvirth, they now have the option to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz in the expansion draft, which will take place from June 18-20, but selections will be announced June 21.
Expansion draft aside, there are other questions surrounding Stolarz and the Flyers' goaltending situation in 2017-18. Despite re-signing Neuvirth, Hextall and Steve Mason both did not shut the door on Mason coming back next season last week, though Mason made it clear he's not open to returning if it was another season of platooning in net.
Mason also made it known that he is open to mentoring a young goalie -- such as Stolarz -- and understands the Flyers have a few kids coming up in the ranks; he just doesn't believe platoons work with goaltenders and rightfully pointed to Tampa and St. Louis as examples.
All signs still point to Mason leaving, however. Hextall said he believes Neuvirth will bounce back after a tough 2016-17, and gave pause when asked if he believes Stolarz will be ready for a full-time NHL backup job, leaving the door open for the team signing a short-term veteran backup netminder. There is also the slim possibility Hextall brings back both Mason and Neuvirth, promising Mason the No. 1 job. The answers to these questions will begin with the expansion draft because the Flyers have to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz. If Neuvirth is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, it would then be likely Hextall tries to re-sign Mason. If Stolarz is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, Stolarz leaves. Then there's the possibility Vegas stays clear of both goalies no matter who's unprotected.
Goaltending will once again provide plenty of entertainment as the offseason approaches. There are several different scenarios that could play out that directly impact Stolarz. For now, though, the 23-year-old will spend the summer rehabbing his lower-body injury.
Stolarz finished 18-9-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .911 save percentage and one shutout in 29 games with the Phantoms this season. It was an up-and-down campaign in Lehigh Valley, but he did perform well in an extremely small sample size with the Flyers.
Oskar Lindblom, LW, 20, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
As expected, Lindblom will be coming to North America full-time for the 2017-18 season, Brynäs IF coach Thomas Berglund confirmed to Swedish newspaper Expressen. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week that Lindblom has "come a long way since his draft year," and hopes the Swede will be here competing for a spot in training camp.
On the ice last week, Lindblom played a major factor into Brynäs IF beating Frölunda, 4-3, in seven games to advance to the SHL final, which began Sunday with HV71. Lindblom picked up two assists in Brynäs' 6-0, Game 6 win over Frolunda last Wednesday. He had a goal in Brynäs' 5-2 loss in Game 1 of the final against HV71 on Sunday.
But it was his performance in Game 7 on Saturday that stood out most, as he registered two goals and an assist in Brynäs' 3-1 series-clinching victory. He helped Brynäs take a 1-0 lead in the opening minute, throwing a shot off Frölunda goalie Johan Gustafsson's pads, leaving a rebound for Juuso Ikonen to put in. He then scored his first of the game, backhanding a rebound past Gustafsson to put Brynäs up, 2-0. With Brynäs up, 2-1, Lindblom capped off his game with a wicked wrister past Gustafsson to secure the win for Brynäs.
It was the type of effort Brynäs has come to expect from Lindblom this season. The winger has consistently been the team's best player and one of the SHL's top players all season long.
"A fantastic player who has had a grim development this year," Berglund told Expressen. "I've never seen a player who had such a development. He really has gone from strength to strength, both as a player and as a person."
Felix Sandstrom, G, 20, 6-2/187, Brynäs IF (SHL)
Sandstrom deserves just as much credit for Brynäs IF's advancing to the SHL final as Lindblom does, as the goaltender came up with two enormous performances in goal in Games 6 and 7 to help Brynäs come back from down, 3-2, to win the series, 4-3. Let's highlight his Game 7 performance, an effort that saw Sandstrom turn away 37 of 38 shots in a high-pressure situation. He consistently answered the bell, positioned himself well and didn't bend in a win-or-go-home game. His lone blemish saw a puck bounce off his own defenseman. An incredibly impressive performance for a 20-year-old in that situation, especially considering he pitched a 32-save shutout in Game 6 down 3-2 in the series.
Carter Hart, G, 18, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Hart will get a taste of professional postseason hockey … at least as a backup. Hart joined the Phantoms on Sunday, according to The Everett Herald's Jesse Geleynse, on an amateur tryout contract (ATO). He will back up Alex Lyon in the postseason. It's unlikely he will play, however. With Hart's season coming to an end after Everett was swept by Seattle in the second round of the WHL playoffs, Hart was free to Lehigh Valley on the ATO. Hart finished the 2016-17 season 32-11-6 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with nine shutouts. He led the WHL in GAA, save percentage and shutouts. He was named the WHL Western Conference Goaltender of the Year. He was one of two WHL goalies on Team Canada during the world junior championships.
• Philippe Myers was pointless in three games for Rouyn-Noranda last week. The Huskies were 1-2 in Games 3, 4 and 5 against Chicoutimi. They face elimination Monday in Game 6.
• Saint John swept Val-d'Or in its second-round series and is now 8-0 in the postseason. Samuel Dove-McFalls had an assist in both Games 3 and 4 and a goal and two assists in four games vs. the Foreurs. His team will face either Rouyn-Noranda or Chicoutimi in the semifinals.
• Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal in Kelowna's 7-2 win over Portland last Wednesday. He was suspended for the Rockets' 6-2 win in Game 5 Friday. Kelowna faces Seattle next.
• Mark Friedman made his professional debut in the Phantoms' regular-season finale Saturday night. Friedman registered an assist and finished as a plus-3 in Lehigh Valley's 4-1 win over Binghamton that clinched the Phantoms 101 points on the season.
• The Phantoms will face the Hershey Bears in the first round beginning Friday night. This is the first 100-point season for Lehigh Valley during the 76-game season era. The last time the Phantoms had a 100-point season was 2004-05 when they won the Calder Cup.
• Travis Sanheim played a key role in Lehigh Valley's comeback win last Wednesday against Providence that clinched the Phantoms' playoff berth, picking up two assists.