Once upon a time, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart were considered to be equals, with both having the same chance to be the Flyers' goalie of the future.
Things have changed.
Hart has blossomed and looks as if he will one day be a Flyers fixture, maybe even a star.
He took a step backward last season. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound goaltender had a poor season in Sweden after sitting out two months with a stomach ailment, which he said was probably connected to a previous bout with mononucleosis. He played a total of 18 games for three teams, and his save percentage hovered around a pedestrian .900.
Sandstrom, 21, was the "other" goalie in the Flyers' development camp, which started Thursday in Voorhees and runs through Monday.
The Flyers hope that last season was just a minor setback and that the 21-year-old Sandstrom will regain his form in Sweden in 2018-19, the final year of his contract, before playing in North America.
"You get stronger through tougher times," said Sandstrom, who was taken in the third round (70th overall) of the 2015 draft. "I played for a couple teams, but I ended up in a really good place. With HV71 [his last Sweden team], I really enjoyed it there and the coaches are great. I'm looking forward to playing there."
Sandstrom said he was disappointed to be sidelined so much last season, "but I finished stronger..and I learned a lot about myself and how I handle stuff and how I should handle stuff."
While Sandstrom will be trying to get back on track, Hart will be attempting to ride the momentum built from a wildly successful season for Everett (Wash.) in the Western Hockey League. He led the WHL in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947), and shutouts (seven) while compiling a 31-6-3 record. He also helped Team Canada win the World Junior Championship.
Hart, who is so popular in the Seattle area that he has thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at a Mariners game, is not lacking for confidence.
"I don't know what their plans are, but my goal is to play in the NHL next year," he said, meaning 2018-19. "Whatever happens, happens. I just have to control what I can control. I've got a big summer of training ahead of me to get ready for training camp in September."
The 6-2, 185-pound Hart, who will turn 20 on Aug. 13, was on the ice for the first time since he spent two days with the AHL's Phantoms during their playoff practices last month.
"I was a little bit rusty out there, but that's to be expected," he said about Thursday's first day of camp. "Toward the end of the session, I started to get a little more crisper and more defined. It felt good to be out there."
He said he was excited to work again with Flyers goaltender coach Kim Dillabaugh and Brady Robinson, the organization's goalie development coach.
"They have their opinion on things, and each development camp we've focused on one or two little details, and I think it's the same approach with this camp," Hart said. "I'm excited to learn a couple things and define some little details and just work on those things."
Hart, who is expected to start the season with the Phantoms, said he matured during his four seasons with Everett.
"When you move from home at 16, you kind of have to grow up quick," he said. "Obviously, you have a billet family, but you're kind of on your own. You're away from your parents and stuff. Going into next year, being a pro, you're going to be on your own pretty much completely for laundry, eating, groceries, and all that stuff. It'll be completely different. I've talked to a lot of people and I think that's the biggest transition from junior to pro – and not having a billet. I know my billet, Parker Fowlds, is probably the best there is."
Hart, who practices yoga and uses a sports psychologist, said he tries to stay away from all the hype surrounding him.
"I actually just deleted Twitter the other day because there's no point in all that," he said. "You see a lot of news and stuff, and whether it's positive or negative, you just don't want to hear that stuff. I mean, I just try to stay away from it and worry about what I'm doing and where I'm at right now. … The only thing that really matters is what I think of myself."
He said Fowlds, his former billet, is "like a grandpa" to him.
Someone asked him if Fowlds also deleted his Twitter account.
"Parker? He doesn't even know what Twitter is," Hart said, drawing laughs. "He can barely understand FaceTime. I got him an iPhone and half the time he still puts it [FaceTime] up to his ear."
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