After diving into the depths of the SHL, we turn our attention to HockeyAllsvenskan. The Flyers have three players from their pool currently competing in the league. Here’s a brief look into their 2020 season so far.
A fifth-round pick by the Flyers back in 2016, Högberg has spent four seasons in the SHL, with his last 3 being for Växjö Lakers HC. The 22-year-old D-man had 14 points in 50 games last year, and 10 in 52 the game before. HockeyAllsvenskan is the second-tier of Swedish Hockey and it’s safe to say he’s already faring much better at that level.
Through 8 games, Högberg has 3 points, all of which are assists. Even more notable is the fact that they’ve come in his las 5 games, dictating a nice run of form. He’s seen at least 18 minutes of ice time in those games too, which is much better for his development than being a smaller fish in a big SHL pond and sitting on the lower lines. Interestingly, he still ranks 9th on the team in assists, with Lakers HC scoring 28 goals in 8 games.
What Högberg has always had going for him is speed, and lots of it. He’s a menace on the forecheck and while he still lacks the strength to really dominate along the boards, he’s a team-first player who feeds the puck well into passing lanes. His shooting is an area that will need improving, both in terms of power and accuracy, but overall I think we could see Högberg find a nice niche on special teams if he can continue to feed his teammates.
A seventh-round pick back in 2018, Westfält is a left-handed center currently playing for Västerviks IK. At the time of being drafted, he was already a key player for Brynäs IF at age 17. The ceiling was high, but growth slowed after Brynäs IF made the jump to the SHL. He was then loaned out to Västerviks IK in the second-tier, tallying 8 points for them last year in 52 games, but had a worrying -9 rating. This season, he’s returned to a positive start.
Westfält has 2 goals in 9 games, putting him on pace for a slight increase in point production over last season. His most recent goal came on October 25th against Tingsryds AIF.
It’s easy to forget he’s still only 20-years-old, and his rating is at a +1 through 9 games, which is a huge improvement over last year. He’s a big body who plays physically and is fairly consistent on both ends of the ice, adding to his special teams upside. It will be interesting to see how he develops throughout the remainder of the season.
Interestingly, Westfält is currently teammates with the third and final Flyers prospect playing in this league.
A third-round pick back in 2015, Sandström has made a couple of appearances for the Phantoms over the last few years, but predominantly played in his home country of Sweden.
The loan to Västerviks IK was a slightly puzzling one. In 2015-16, Sandstrom played 25 games in the SHL and registered a .905 save percentage as an 18-year-old. One year later, it rose to .908 with 2.25 goals allowed for Brynas IF in 22 games. He struggled to get regular starts and was loaned out to the second-tier before a brief stint with HV71 in the SHL. His first full season with them saw him register a .911 save percentage and a 10-8 record.
Unsurprisingly, Sandström is thriving in the second tier. He has a .937 save percentage in 3 starts, despite taking 3 losses. His first was against the best team in the league (IF Björklöven, who are yet to lose in 8 games) where he still saved a whopping 37/40 shots in an absolute battering. He faced them a second time yesterday, saving 38/40 in a 3-0 loss.
In fact, Sandström has made over 38 saves in each of his starts this year. He actually has the third-highest save percentage in the league through 3 games.
Sandström has long been renowned for his positioning and agility. He’s not the most aggressive goalie out there, but a stint in the second division could see confidence rise and push him to be more aggressive on second-chance efforts and diving over the puck. He definitely carries the most intrigue of any Flyers prospect playing in Sweden as a whole, but will that ring true when all is said and done?
Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre