Flyers Prospect Watch: Goaltenders

Would you believe the Flyers drafted 15 goalies between 2001 and 2009 who played a combined 55 minutes in the NHL.. FIFTEEN!!! Hextall has righted that ship by not always picking goalies way down in the 6th or 7th rounds which was the de facto Bobby Clarke/Paul Holmgren philosophy. I assume there was also a coloured wheel which Bob and Paul spun around to make those picks too. Maybe even a theme song!

Forward Prospects here!

And Up and Coming Defensemen!

Goaltenders – A TL;DR

  1. The tandem of Mason/Neuvirth should be back in full force again next season. I see no problem in just rotating these guys; if Mason is the starter Neuvirth isn’t far behind. Both goaltenders played very well last year. Above the .915 s% league average in fact; Mason at .918 in 54 appearances and Neuvirth .924 in 32. Just roll the hot hand.
  1. Emery and Jason LaBarbera shouldn’t be back with the organization.. if they are.. God help us. LaBarbera was atrocious in Lehigh Valley (see 3.02 gaa/.899 s%) and while Emery may be a slight upgrade from LaBarbera there are better, younger options.
  1. Stolarz showed marked improvement last season, he should be the front runner in the AHL. Newcomer Alex Lyon will be interesting to watch; he leaves Yale as a Hobey Baker finalist posting school records for.. well.. everything.

NHL

Steve Mason – 1 year – $4.100m   /   Michal Neuvirth – 1 year – $1.625m

AHL

Anthony Stolarz – 1 year – $0.753m   /   Alex Lyon – 2 years – $0.925m

Spare Parts

Jason LaBarbera – UFA – $0.600m   /   Ray Emery – UFA – $0.600m

Signed Prospects

Anthony Stolarz (2012 – 45th Pick)

photo: Fimmano Photography

photo: Fimmano Photography

Leading the youthful charge of goalies is Stolarz. Proof that even Holmgren could recognize there was a problem with how the team was drafting goalies. A hulking 6’6″ he certainly fits the massive Rinne/Bishop/Etc. mold of the new-age NHL goaltender. He had a rough first AHL campaign as he backed-up veteran Rob Zepp (who was surprisingly decent). Anthony stumbled to a 3.28 gaa and .905 s%, but he wasn’t expected to jump in and win a Vezina. It often takes lanky goalies quite a bit of time to fill out and catch up to professional speeds; Bishop for example was 26 when he finally got the nod as a starter in the NHL. This year Anthony looked much stronger and posted a 2.60 gaa with a .916 s% in 47 games. There’s still a lot of growing to do here, but if he stays the course we could see Stolarz developing into a NHL back-up as early as the 2017-18 campaign. With the Mason/Neuvirth contracts both ending we’re likely to see management choose one and use a young goalie in the back-up role.

Alex Lyon (2016 – Free Agent)

photo: Melissa Wade

photo: Melissa Wade

If Stolarz falters this year Alex Lyon will be licking his chops. He comes to the organization after setting records at Yale in career gaa (1.88), s% (.931), wins (50), and shutouts (15). Surely one of the reasons Lyon chose to sign with the Flyers is that he noticed the gap in their current pipeline. With the Mason/Neuvirth expiring contracts, just Stolarz in the AHL, and 4 unproven draftees there’s ample opportunity for him on this 2-year Entry deal. He could conceivably play his way right through Stolarz en route to that 2017-18 back-up gig in Philly. Unlike these last 2 seasons with Zepp and LaBarbera there’s going to be an interesting competition for the net in Lehigh Valley, and that’s great for the organization.

Unsigned Prospects

Merrick Madsen (2013 – 162nd Pick)

FINALLY! After 2 years of being stapled to the bench Merrick Madsen got his chance with Harvard. The 20-year-old appears to be 3rd or 4th on the depth chart among Flyers goaltending prospects after a very nice 18-7-3 run with a 2.00 gaa, and a .931 s%. His last year at Harvard is coming at a great time because of that same potential vacuum that might be left by either Stolarz or Lyon joining the big club next season. There’ll surely be competition, but Merrick should get a look as an AHL/ECHL candidate for the 2017/18 season.

Felix Sandstrom (2015 – 70th Pick)

Madsen’s competitor for that 3rd/4th spot on the prospect chart and for the next crack at the AHL roster will likely come in the form of Felix Sandstrom. He played 25 games for Brynas in the Swedish league this past season, splitting time with veteran Bernhrd Starkbaum who played 28. Starkbaum’s stats were slightly better, but Sandstrom’s 2.61 gaa and .903 s% were nothing to brush aside. Especially when you note that the Swedish league is probably on par, if not a slight step up from the quality of the AHL. That would suggest Sandstrom might even be better than Madsen already and maybe comparable to Stolarz. Even though he’s just 19-years-old, as a Euro, he could transition to the North American game this year and get the jump on other prospects by playing with Reading in the ECHL, or even challenging for an AHL gig.

Matej Tomek (2015 – 90th Pick)

The Flyers have always dabbled in snapping up young players from the NAHL, and Tomek (a Slovakian native) is the latest. After a strong year as a 17-year-old with Topeka, Matej turned 18 just before the draft. He caught scouts’ attention with a 24-7-2 record, 1.83 gaa, and .928 s%. Opting to attend school Tomek was picked up by the now National Champion program at the University of North Dakota. As was the case with Madsen though, he just practiced in his first year in the NCAA. Hopefully the program at UND stays competitive in coming seasons so Tomek can start meaningful games. No reason to expect anything here except playing out his NCAA eligibility for the next 3 years.

Ivan Fedotov (2015 – 188th Pick)

Another monster at 6’6″, Fedotov is a complete wildcard pick. He’s basically spent the last 2 seasons with his KHL club’s MHL affiliate Reaktor Nizhnekamsk (Under-22 Russian League). There he’s piled up a 39-15-11 record as the starter in the past 2 seasons, and beyond that we don’t really know a whole lot. He hasn’t been a part of World Junior rosters so we haven’t had much exposure to him. My guess is that the scouts saw him play once or twice and decided to roll the dice on a really big kid who at least has the interest of KHL clubs. With so many other goalies in the system he’s a long shot to make a difference, and since he was taken with a 7th Round selection there’s nothing wrong with that.

Minor Pro Depth

Martin Ouellette (2010 – 184th Pick)

If you’ve been following the Flyers for 15 years or so.. no, this is not Maxime Ouellet a now 34-year-old disappointment the Flyers drafted 22nd overall in 1999. Personally I had to do a double-take when I saw this new Ouellette’s name in a box score for the first time. This Ouellette was originally drafted by the Blue Jackets, and took the longer college route which is becoming less than unusual for Canadian players. A free education? Why not! He was fairly successful on some sub-par U. Maine teams, and he’s been solid as a pro where he’s accumulated a 34-20 record with Reading. Despite a nomadic start to his career he’s been quite competent with a .922 s% in 17 AHL games, and a .914 in 60 ECHL games. If the Flyers wanted to add another insurance goalie behind Stolarz/Lyon I’d much rather see Ouellette than an old journeyman like LaBarbera.

Connor Knapp (2009 – 164th Pick)

Straddling the edge of prospect and wash out, the 6’5″ 26-year-old has never done more than spot work in the AHL (just 12 games so far) but did have 2 NHL appearances with the Sabres not long ago. The same ‘lanky goalie’ rules apply here, but he’s now 4 pro seasons deep, and while limited, his AHL sample (.877 s%) doesn’t look promising. His ECHL body of work is better (.912 s% through 104 games), but with younger options coming and even a guy like Ouellette providing depth it wouldn’t hurt to move on.

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