Anthony Stolarz is ready for a permanent NHL role

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Anthony Stolarz
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 02: Anthony Stolarz /

Philadelphia Flyers goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz is about to start his fourth year in the minors. However, he’s already shown he deserves a role at the NHL level.

The Philadelphia Flyers would surely cease to be if its goaltender situation didn’t have at least some questions. After two years of a Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth tandem that saw great success (mostly in 2015-16) and also disappointing lows (mostly last season), the Flyers jettisoned Mason and signed Brian Elliott as a replacement.

This decision seemed strange considering Mason outplayed Neuvirth last year- Mason posted a .908 SV% to Neuvirth’s dreadful .891- but regardless, the Flyers will move forward with two veteran goalies who are best suited to part-time roles.

Don’t forget Stolarz

Of course, the Flyers still have Anthony Stolarz still waiting in the wings, a New Jersey kid who’s now slated to spend his fourth year primarily with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Stolarz has been the Flyers’ top goalie prospect for years, though that may have changed with the recent influx of young talent (especially Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom). His style of goaltending relies on his excellent size, as Hockey’s Future notes in its scouting report of Stolie the goalie:

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"Stolarz is a butterfly goaltender. He uses his 6-foot-5 frame to makes good use of his size in limiting the choices of shooters, and he isn’t afraid to challenge them. Stolarz generally plays a good positional game that doesn’t leave many options for an opposing shooter. But the goaltender needs to develop in several areas, including his post-to-post coverage."

The main reason why Stolarz hasn’t latched on with the Flyers is that he has yet to put together a bona fide full season of consistency. It looked like Stolarz might have been ready to do so after his 2015-16 performance, posting a .916 save percentage. However, that didn’t really happen last year. His .911 SV% with the Phantoms wasn’t bad- it just wasn’t the convincing number that the Flyers were hoping for, the number that would’ve all but guaranteed a permanent promotion to the big leagues.

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A strong debut

But in his brief stint with the Flyers, his first in the NHL, Stolarz looked the part of a professional goalie. In seven appearances and three starts, Stolarz recorded a .928 SV% and even earned his first shutout. Small sample size caveats definitely apply, but Stolarz’s strong positional awareness was certainly on full display.

After such a solid NHL debut, it would’ve been logical for the Flyers to make Stolarz their backup goalie for this upcoming year. Instead, he’ll be in Lehigh Valley yet again. The front office’s comments have suggested that this decision had more to do with the goalie in front of him. Neuvirth didn’t instill enough confidence in the Flyers to let him take the majority of the starts, so the Flyers opted to create a platoon with him an Brian Elliott. This leaves Stolarz out in the cold, a player who has demonstrated he belongs in the NHL, but in a lesser role than the Flyers would’ve had to put him in.

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There’s no question that Anthony Stolarz deserves to be on an active NHL roster right now. For now, though, he’ll have to bide his time in the minors and wait for his next call-up. And when he gets it, the power lies within him to ensure it’s a permanent stay.