The Philadelphia Flyers are clearly buying time with their 2017 goaltending tandem of Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, waiting for one of their star goalie prospects to be NHL-ready in the next few years.
Carter Hart? Felix Sandstrom? Those are the two prospects in the Flyers system most commonly picked to be the next franchise goalie. Neither Hart nor Sandstrom will be NHL-ready this season, and their chances are not too high of making the Flyers in 2018, either. General Manager Ron Hextall has favored a slow development process with his young prospects, especially at the goaltending position. He does not want to rush them into NHL action before they are ready, which could shatter the confidence of any young goaltender.
While Hart and Sandstrom are still a few years away, the team also has their two AHL goaltender prospects from last season, Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon. Stolarz, the 2012 second round pick, made his NHL debut last season following a Neuvirth injury. It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which he makes another trip up to the Flyers during this season under similar circumstances. The team doesn’t seem especially high on Stolarz however, as they did not trust him to be the Flyers full-time backup heading into 2017, nor did they play him very often during a stretch of games late last season in which former Flyers goalie Steve Mason was clearly overworked. Rumor has it the team is not crazy with the 23-year-old goalie’s technique in the crease.
With the organization not too high on Stolarz, how does the other Lehigh Valley Phantom goaltender factor into the picture? Lyon signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers following his junior season with Yale. The 24-year-old goaltender played in 47 games with the Phantoms in his first professional season last year, logging a 2.74 GAA and .912 save percentage. After a slow start to the year, Lyon found his game and seemed to outplay Stolarz, who played in 29 AHL games with a 2.92 GAA and .911 save percentage.
Although he is only entering his second professional season, Lyon has a big opportunity in front of him. If he can beat out Anthony Stolarz for the top goalie spot with Lehigh Valley during camp, Lyon has the chance to impress with a stellar sophomore AHL season. If all goes right for Lyon, he can potentially leapfrog Stolarz to the front of the line for goalie prospects within the organization (for the short term). Instead of Stolarz being called up if either Neuvirth or Elliott suffers an injury, it could be Lyon. Next season, if the team moves on from Michal Neuvirth and needs a full-time backup for Brian Elliott, it could be Alex Lyon, not Anthony Stolarz.
Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom are undoubtedly the two best goaltending prospects within the Flyers organization, however with both needing a few more seasons to develop before they are ready to make the leap to the NHL, the real competition lies between Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon in Lehigh Valley. Whichever netminder comes out on top will likely decide who gets called up to the NHL if or when one of the two Flyer goaltenders suffers an injury.
He may not get the same attention as Stolarz, Hart or Sandstrom, but Alex Lyon has a massive opportunity in front of him heading into the 2017 season. Will the former Yale Bulldog capitalize on it?
ESPN’s Corey Pronman released a ranking of each NHL team based on prospect pipelines, and guess who came in at #1? The Philadelphia Flyers. Here is part of his reasoning for the ranking:
“The group includes solid first-round picks, middle-round selections who have trended up, and an undrafted free agent in Philippe Myers who is one of the very best defense prospects in hockey. Not too long ago, the Flyers’ farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five. Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster.”
The future has never been brighter for the Orange and Black.
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