It has been a long time since you could say that the Flyers goalie system was stacked. Since Ron Hextall retired, they have been searching for the true number one goalie. Since the death of Pelle Lindbergh, the Flyers haven’t had solid goalie depth. The crease in Philadelphia seemed like a black hole, that sucked away at any net minder who came in for the job.
Some blame the fans and the pressure they put on their players. While others, blame the fact that the Flyers had traded away every defenseman they drafted. Even as early as two years ago they didn’t have a homegrown blueliner playing on the squad. The finger is also being pointed at the personality of the goalies brought in, and the effect it had on their team. All that is known for sure is that the Orange and Black have had a seemingly endless carrousel of goalies that couldn’t be counted on night in and night out. Until now.
Philadelphia Flyers Goalie Prospects: A Position of Strength
Analysts look at the Flyers prospect pool, and lock on to the impressive list of defense prospects. With names like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, and Philippe Myers, can you blame them? There is an argument to be made though for the organizational depth at goaltending. Now, before breaking down this list of prospects, it is important to note that the goalie is a very fickle position. Your top Goalie Prospect could end up as an ECHL goalie while your bottom goalie prospect could end up a Vezina Trophy winner.
Carter Hart, 2016 Second Round Pick, #48 Overall, Everett Silvertips
The Flyers took the first goalie in the 2016 draft, shocking the hockey world. Hart is more of an older style goalie in terms of size. Measuring in at only 6’0 and 177 pounds and is known for his athleticism and mental toughness, which he puts an emphasis on. To help control and cope with the emotions that come with being in the net night in and night out, he visits with the same sports psychologist as Brayden Holtby. While Flyers GM, Ron Hextall, thinks Hart can be a starting goalie in the NHL and has great potential, there are concerns about him being a smaller goalie in a league of giant goalies.
Alex Lyon, Undrafted Free Agent, Yale University
To fans who don’t pay attention to the NCAA, Alex Lyon is unknown. The ones who do, understand what a steal it was for the Flyers to sign him as an undrafted free agent. Lyon was impressive throughout his NCAA career. As a freshman, the 6′ 1 Minnesota native, outplayed his competition for the Yale Bulldogs starting goalie job. Playing in 30 games of 33, posting a 2.41 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Lyons record that year was 14-11-5 with three shutouts.
His sophomore year he took a bulk of the playing time, playing in in 32 of 33 games. While putting up a stat line of 1.62 GAA and a .939 Save Percentage, seven shutouts with a 17-10-5 record. To top it all off he was selected as a conference 1st team All-Star, and 1st team All-American, and Goaltender of the Year. He put up the best save percentage and goals against average.
Yet again, in his junior year, Lyon carried the crease, playing in 31 of 32 games and posting an impressive 19-8-4 record, five shutouts, 1.64 GAA, and a .936 save percentage. Also in his junior year Lyon was a finalist of the Mike Richter Award (NCAA best Goaltender) and was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (NCAA Most Valuable Player.) He was then signed by the Flyers when Yale was eleminated from the NCAA national tournament, and should challenge Anthony Stolarz for playing time in the AHL this upcoming season. Obviously the front office has faith in him as well since they elected to burn a year of his Entry Level Contract to entice him to come to Philadelphia.
Anthony Stolarz, 2012 Second Round Pick, #45 Overall, London Knights
Anthony Stolarz seems to be the new standard for the goaltending position, in terms of size. Unlike the two previously mentioned goalies, Stolarz is a towering 6’5″ 200 lbs. Hart and Lyon play more of an athletic style, while Stolarz is a positional goalie who primarily relies on his size to block the puck rather than make moves to get the puck. Even though he needs to work on his post to post, his size makes up for a lack of athleticism.
The Flyers drafted Stolarz after an impressive playoff run in 2012 with London. He played 18 games and going 13-5 with a 2.53 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. Stolarz followed that playoff run up with taking the London number one goaltending position, until he missed six weeks with a leg laceration caused by a skate blade. Before this injury he was 25-5-1 with a 2.52 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Unfortunately he wasn’t the same when he returned, and then had to have hip surgery that offseason.
After his eventful last season of Juniors, he spent his first year pro as the AHL back up to Rob Zepp. With this, he saw limited action, playing 31 games, and putting up poor numbers 9-13-0, two shutouts, 3.28 GAA and a .903 save percentage. Last season he finally seemed to have pieced it all together, taking the AHL starting job from veteran Jason LaBarbra. Playing in 47 games he had a 21-18-7 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .916 save Percentage. The former London Knight, should challenge for the NHL backup job in 2017-2018.
Merrick Madsen, 6th Round 2013, 162 Overall, Harvard University
Madsen is largely untested but has shown promise with his time in the NCAA. After only playing 45 minutes of one game, during his freshman year, he took the starting goalie job his sophomore year. Madsen didn’t look back going 18-7-3 with 2.00 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. At this point, he still needs to prove his worth during his junior year, but there is no reason to think he isn’t a legitimate goalie prospect.
Felix Sandstrom, 2015 3rd Round, 70 overall, SHL, Sweden U20
At 18 years old, Sandstorm split the net for Brynas of the SHL. So it is acceptable for him to have some struggles as an 18 year old playing against men. He played in 25 games. Sandstrom had a record of 10-14-0 with a 2.61 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. Sandstorm also was on last year’s Sweden World Junior Championships team. He is a favorite to make Team Sweden again this year.
Matej Tomek, 2015 3rd Round, 90th Overall, University of North Dakota
This past season, Tomek didn’t see any game action for the NCAA Champions, University of North Dakota. He was the third Goalie on the roster. While this may seem discouraging, Tomek has shown incredible skill at his position. It should come as no surprise that, as a freshman, he would be down on the depth chart. He spent his time in the NAHL, and put up stellar numbers. The Czech native, went 24-7-0 with 6 shutouts and a .928 save percentage. Tomek announced his intentions of playing for UND and was drafted by the USHL’s Fargo Force; as well as the Flyers. Going into his sophomore year it will come as no surprise that he will get playing time. Expect Tomek to excel in the North Dakota system.
As you can tell, the Flyers have been stockpiling goalies. It has to be noted that Ron Hextall was the assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have had a history of building up goalie prospect after goalie prospect and trading them away for assets. It should come as no surprise that Ron Hextall would follow that same game plan. Look for goalies starting to be traded from the Flyers, a la the Kings, as they develop.
KELOWNA, CANADA – JANUARY 8: Carter Hart #70 of Everett Silvertips defends the net against the Kelowna Rockets on January 8, 2016 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)