Since Ron Hextall’s tenure as General Manager, Philadelphia Flyers fans learned to keep close watch on the organizations prospects. During hard-to-watch moments with the NHL club, they provided hope for the years ahead.
Although players such as Carter Hart, Joel Farabee, and Phil Myers have graduated from prospect status, Philadelphia still boasts a deep farm system. Of course, depth is never a bad thing. A franchise can never go wrong with stocking its prospect pool with young talent that might fill an NHL roster spot one day. However, depth does not always reflect quality. Just because an organization possesses a deep farm system, it does not necessarily translate to possessing one of the best in the league.
It is time to dive deep into Philadelphia’s stock of prospects and assess the potential that truly inhabits it. So far, we’ve touched on the forwards and defensemen. Now, we shift our focus to between the pipes, categorizing each goalie as a potential NHL starter, NHL backup, a netminder elsewhere.
With Hart set to hold down the crease for many years to come, Philadelphia is not necessarily in need of potential starting goalies in the pipeline. However, that does not mean they are not there. The goalies in this category possess the skill and upside to become a number one netminder somewhere in the NHL.
Samuel Ersson is Philadelphia’s most promising goalie prospect. His numbers in the SHL are a bit deceiving as he works the crease for a pretty poor team. He’s smart and an excellent puck tracker. Both qualities should transition smoothly to the North American game. There is still a lot of maturation and development to be had; however, Ersson still possesses a rather high ceiling.
Felix Sandstrom’s first crack at North American did not go well. He struggled to succeed at the ECHL level when many felt he would be ready for the AHL at the start of the year. Luckily one poor year does not define a player. It just means Sandstrom might need a little more time than originally expected. He still comes with the upside of a starting goaltender.
Kirill Ustimenko rounds up the “Big Three” of Flyers goalie prospects. Like Sandstrom, he spent his first season in North America playing in the ECHL. Unlike Sandstrom, he played well. Ustimenko spent limited time in Lehigh Valley but should be a mainstay in the AHL next year, or whenever we get back to normal. He will need some time to marinate in the AHL and then transition to an NHL backup. Still, serving as a number-one netminder down the line is not out of the question.
As the heading suggests, these prospects don’t quite have what it takes to be a true starting goalie. Still, there is the chance he can make a living serving as a backup in the NHL.
Before last season, Ivan Fedotov was a forgotten prospect in the Flyers goalie pipeline. Now amid his second quality season in the KHL, Fedotov is back on everyone’s radar. Fedotov’s questions involve sustaining this level of play, transitioning to North America, and whether playing in North America is something that interests him. For now, if he were to come to North America to play, the safest bet is categorizing him as a future reliable backup.
AHL or Elsewhere
Whether it be in the minors or overseas. If these goalies want to play at the professional level, it will be somewhere other than the National Hockey League.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, Roddy Ross’s current body of work makes it challenging to place him any higher than a possible option at the AHL level. The book is still open on him; however, a lot of work is needed to get him beyond this point.
Matej Tomek’s struggles at the NCAA level are well documented. After a strong year in Slovakia last season, he is back to struggling, this time in Finland. Once a highly regarded prospect, the NHL simply isn’t in the cards for Tomek anymore.
Once an area of desperate need, the Flyers are now flush with quality goalie prospects. Ironically, it comes at a time where their future in the net is essentially set. Still, having too much talent in the net is a problem every NHL franchise would love to have.
Of course, the high-end young goalies can only move so far up Philadelphia’s depth chart before they run into Carter Hart at the top. Expect the Flyers to explore trades involving some of these youngsters as their value increases. For now, allow them to be a treat for a franchise that suffered goalie woes for too long.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire