The Philadelphia Flyers goaltending hasn’t been a bright spot for the team this season with top two net minders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth combining for an .896 save percentage, but their future at the position is bright. With many players waiting in the wings, it’s tough to say who will be the first to make the jump. What is known, however, is that the Flyers goaltending could look a lot different in the next few years.
Philadelphia Flyers Goaltending Future Is Bright
Aside from Mason and Neuvirth, the Flyers have many goaltending prospects in their system. They spread across the AHL, junior leagues and even in the SHL. And most of them have shown the talent that the Flyers are looking for at the goaltending position.
The two most accessible goalies for the Flyers are the ones currently in their minor league system. Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz are the goaltending duo for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The two have put together a season that looks like it will help the Phantoms break a lengthly playoff drought.
Before the start of this season, Lyon was the goaltender for Yale University. He was coming off his second straight Ken Dryden Award as the league’s best goaltender. Lyon had also been named to the All-ECAC First Team, ALl-Ivy League First Team and All-New England First Team.
In three seasons at Yale, Lyon was 50-29-14 with a 1.88 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. The un-drafted junior decided to forgo his senior season and signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers in April of 2016.
In his first professional season, Lyon finds himself as one of the top goaltenders in the AHL. His 24-12-4 record is fourth best in the league. His .911 save percentage has him in the top 20. His four shutouts are tied for third best.
While it is unlikely that Lyon will be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season, it is promising that he has been able to put up solid numbers in his first professional season.
Stolarz is entering his third season with the Phantoms and the last of his entry level deal. Last season, he finished 21-18-7 with a 2.60 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. This season has been a bit of a different story. His 3.01 goals against and .907 save percentage show a goaltender who hasn’t been on the top of his game. The 16-7-0 record, however, is promising.
The third year pro has already seen time with the Flyers in the NHL. He impressed in his limited action, going 2-0 in four appearances this season. He would record his first NHL win in his first game on November 27th. His first shutout would come on December 11th, his second appearance.
While GM Ron Hextall has kept quiet, it is likely that the Flyers will choose to protect Stolarz in the upcoming expansion draft. The signing of Neuvirth fills the requirement of having a goalie under contract that can then be exposed.
While the stats this season aren’t among his best, it is likely that Stolarz will be fighting for a spot in the NHL come next year’s camp.
Even with Lyon’s impressive season and Stolarz’s NHL experience, Hart is one of the most promising Flyers goaltending prospects. The Flyers made Hart the first goaltender chosen in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft when they took him with the 48th pick.
In his third full season with the Everett Silvertips, Hart has been nothing but outstanding. As one of the top goaltenders in the league, his numbers are that much more incredible. In 54 games during the regular season, Hart sits at 32-11-6 with a 1.99 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He also has nine shutouts on the season.
He led the WHL in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts, all stats that helped him capture his second consecutive CHL Goaltender of the Year Award.
Hart helped the team clinch the number one record in the Western Conference. The team also won the U.S. Division. He was named the team’s MVP for the second straight season. The playoffs are set to begin for Everett when they take on the Victoria Royals starting March 24th.
While it’s unlikely that Hart will be seeing NHL time soon, his dominance at the junior level is something to keep an eye on.
While Hart has been dominating the junior level, Sandstrom has enjoyed success for Brynas IF of the SHL. He finished the regular season with a 14-5-2 record, 2.25 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He helped the team finish with 93 points as they qualified for a playoff spot as the fifth seed.
During his time with Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships, Sandstrom helped the team with a 4-1-1 record with a 2.17 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
With Sandstrom’s contract ending after this season, he has the opportunity to come overseas and play for the Phantoms next season. This will all depend on what happens with the Flyers goaltending situation. If Hextall decides that either Lyon or Stolarz are ready for the NHL, it would open a spot as the Phantoms backup.
There is still time for Hextall to decide on what he wants to do with the Flyers goaltending situation. Sandtrom’s development in Sweden is certainly something to have the Flyers excited about.
Merrick Madsen is currently in his third season as the goaltender for Harvard. His 44-12-5 record, along with his 2.10 goals against average and .924 save percentage helped the team capture an ECAC Championship. Madsen was named the Most Outstanding Player for his efforts during the tournament. The third-seeded team will take on Providence in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Matej Tomek is in his second season at the University of North Dakota. Playing time has been hard to come by for the sophomore as he only appeared in two games during the season, allowing four goals on 13 shots. He also appeared in two games for Team Slovakia in the World Junior Championships. The 10th-seeded North Dakota will face Boston University in the NCAA tournament.
Future Is Bright
While the Flyers goaltending has been an issue in the past, it looks as if things could be changing in the very near future. With multiple prospects waiting in the wings, things could be looking up at the goaltending position.
There are many prospects that could be making the jump to the NHL soon. As it stands right now, Neuvirth is the only goaltender under contract for the Flyers next season. While there is still time for Mason to sign a contract, it looks like his time with the Flyers could be coming to an end.
The expansion draft could provide clarity for the Flyers in regards to Neuvirth. Regardless of the outcome, the Flyers goaltending future is looking bright.