If you are thinking about top rookies in the NHL, you are probably thinking of Connor Bedard. There are a whole lot of reasons for that. Besides the fact that he is scoring like crazy over there in Chicago, he is also fulfilling all the hype that a first overall pick should produce in the NHL, let alone any sport. Yup, the Blackhawks have found their next superstar.
For the most part, if you’re thinking of who a rookie of the year candidate should be, you are thinking of someone who is, like Bedard, the top scoring player. There have been 84 winners of the award. None of them have been Flyers. Just 15 of them have been goalies. Only defensemen, at 13, have had fewer winners. The last goaltender to win the award was future Flyer Steve Mason in 2008-09.
This brings us to young Flyers goaltender Sam Ersson. While this is his second year in the NHL, he is, technically, still a rookie. By the NHL rules, a rookie is a rookie if they have played less than 25 games in previous seasons overall in the NHL and/or less than six games in two consecutive seasons. This is why guys like Bobby Brink still count as a rookie.
Ersson has played in 24 total games; twelve this year and twelve in 2022-23. So far this season, he is 7-3-2 in with a 2.57 goals against average, .897 save percentage, and two shutouts. As far as rookie stats go, he leads all young goaltenders in GAA and shutouts and is behind just Toronto's Joseph Woll in wins (8) and save percentage (.916).
Carter Hart has been sidelined this season, off and on, with an "illness" that is going undisclosed, but has since been identified. Hart's future is also in question as he is a pending free agent at the end of the year. As far as the backup role has been concerned, Ersson has solidified his role as the top go to guy in net while Felix Sandstrom has been called up, but has yet to see action, and Cal Petersen has been pretty much exiled to the AHL.
Since being called up last season, Ersson has shown that he has the talent and skills to be an NHL goalie. While playing on a losing team last season, he went 6-3 with a 3.07 GAA, .899 save percentage, and one shutout. Because of his success on a bad team, there were calls that he should be given the starting role.
For now, Ersson is playing well. Likewise, the Flyers are playing well. Whether or not the Flyers are committed to Hart in the future is still unclear. However, they have committed to Ersson for this year and the following season.
More importantly, if Ersson takes over the starting role and Hart continues to be sidelined or is traded, he could get more exposure. While Bedard should win the Calder Trophy, stranger things have happened. Connor McDavid finished third to Artemi Panarin in 2015-16 after McDavid missed a large chunk of the season due to injuries. Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby, likewise, did not win the trophy either.
It is possible, that out of all the Flyers' heralded rookies this year that Ersson could be a long shot candidate for the Calder Trophy. If he keeps the Flyers in contention for the playoffs and if he continues to lead all rookie goaltenders in the major stat categories, keep an eye on him. He could be the first Flyer ever to win the award.