(Photo credit: Frank Fimmano.)
The Flyers are, for some of their Paul Holmgren Era follies with the CBA, the reverse under Ron Hextall. Hextall’s set up one interesting goalie system.
Since 2012, the Flyers have drafted five goalies.
2012: Anthony Stolarz R2
2013: Merrick Madsen R3
2015: Felix Sandstrom E3
2015: Matej Tomek R3
2015: Ivan Fedotov R7
Currently, Stolarz is an AHL All-star, Madsen has a .935 SV% and 4 shutouts in 12 games for Harvard of the NCAA, Sandstrom is 18 and playing against men in the Swedish League, Fedotov is 18 and alternating between the KHL and the MHL in Russia and Tomek has yet to appear in a game at Dave Hakstol’s old place, the University of North Dakota.
This is good, in theory one of these five guys should hit as a future NHL starting goalie. In order of success, Stolarz is closest, then a tie between Madsen and Sandstrom with Tomek and Fedotov tied after that. That’s based solely on where they’re playing, goaltending performance is volatile, so this rank can change at the drop of the hat.
The biggest note isn’t the quantity, it’s the fact that Ron Hextall has some options available with their development.
Madsen can stay in the NCAA until as late as 2018, while Tomek can stay until 2019, meaning their ELC’s could end as late as 2020 for Madsen and 2021 for Tomek.
Fedotov and Sandstrom can both slide while staying in Europe and not sign until 2017, with ELC’s that also expire in 2020.
Fedotov and Sandstrom however, can, and likely should, see some North American playing time before then. As they are both European goalies, once their European seasons end, the Flyers can sign them to PTO’s and assign them to either the AHL Phantoms or ECHL Royals. If both need to add to their workload, what better way to get it done, than bringing them over this season for a few games in the organization. The best part about doing so, it wouldn’t affect their slide status, so ELC’s would not be burned.
Going to next season, the Flyers face a choice with Fedotov and Sandstrom, they could let both play in their respective slots in the KHL and SHL or the Flyers could sign their ELC’s and bring both over to split time with the AHL and ECHL.
Here’s how that would work:
Given the proximity of Lehigh Valley and Reading, assuming the Flyers go with Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason again next year, Stolarz could start 52-56 games with the Phantoms of their 76 game schedule.
Sandstrom and Fedotov could each take 36 games in the ECHL, while playing 10-11 each in the AHL allowing all 3 goalie prospects to see about 50 games of action. Stolarz as the top guy woulds see mostly AHL action, but could play a few NHL games if someone gets hurt, while the other guys would slide their ELC like Robert Hagg did while playing for the Phantoms last year all while getting acclimated with North American ice and the Flyers system in front of them.
If these guys go back to Europe again, the Flyers can always roll with any career AHL/ECHL swing goalies that are out there to make sure that all the slots are filled.
All this happens while Madsen and Tomek learn their craft in the NCAA. If Madsen does decide to turn pro, the Flyers could sign him and send one of Fedotov or Sandstrom back to Europe to make room for him.
At the end of the day, the Flyers goalie development has many possible paths, and all this is possible because Ron Hextall drafted goalies from multiple locations. Had he locked himself in with all CHL or NCAA goalies, the ability to find playing time for all of them would be limited, but by balancing NCAA and European netminders, the Flyers have opened themselves up to more possible paths to finding a home grown franchise starting goalie.