When it comes to the future of Philadelphia Flyers goaltending, the conversation usually starts and stops with Carter Hart. This is for good reason. The 20-year-old netminder is only five games into his first professional hockey season and already has an impressive resume. The three-time WHL Goaltender of the Years is also a form two-time CHL Goaltender of the Year and WHL MVP. Hart could very well be the answer to the Flyers goalie woes. However, he is not the only netminder in Philadelphia’s farm system worthy of your attention.
The Flyers have five goalies playing somewhere other than Lehigh Valley. Three of those five are off to great starts this season while the other two should see improvements as their respective seasons roll along. Anything can happen in the world of sports. Although Hart is most likely the goalie to lead Philadelphia to the promise land, it is important to know all of the options.
Let’s have a look, shall we?
The Flyers selected Samuel Ersson in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he is manning the crease for Vasteras IK of Allsvenskan, the second tier league in Sweden. Ersson is off to a fantastic start with a 6-2-0 record in eight games. Additionally, he is only allowing an average of 2.09 goals per game and has a .929 save percentage. The 19-year-old still has a lot of progress to make. However, nobody can argue with the early success he is having in his rookie season for Vasteras IK.
Philadelphia chose Kirill Ustimenko in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He is in the midst of his third season playing for MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg of the MHL. Preventing the puck from entering the net is a skill Ustimenko appears to have perfected since joining the MHL. His goals-against-average has never gone over 2.00 and currently sits at 1.90. Through 21 games, Ustimenko has a save percentage of .919. Incredibly, this is a career-low number. Whether Ustimenko’s production can translate to the NHL-level is still up for discussion. However, he is worth keeping an eye on.
The former seventh-round selection, Ivan Fedotov, is having his best season in the VHL to date. Fedotov has manned the crease for Toros Neftekamsk in seven games. His 1.24 goals-against-average and .945 save percentage will be difficult to maintain for the whole season. Still, he is putting together a great effort thus far. Similar to Ustimenko, we always have to take into consideration the quality of competition in each league. Whether Fedotov can become a legitimate professional hockey player in North America is something we just do not know at this time.
The Flyers selected Felix Sandstrom in the third round of the 2015 draft. It can be argued that the 21-year-old netminder is off to a slow start for HV71 of the SHL this season. His GAA is respectable (2.70), but he needs to get his save-percentage up (.893). Only playing in seven games thus far, there is plenty of time to turn this around.
Unfortunately, Matej Tomek is the most disappointing on this list and the least likely to get a crack at the NHL someday. Since the Flyers drafted him in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry draft, Tomek has struggled to meet expectations. He played okay during his time in the NAHL and USHL. However, he is struggling at the college level first for North Dakota, and now for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The 21-year-old Tomek has time to turn things around but he has a lot of ground to make up in a crowded goalie prospect pool.
There is no doubt that Carter Hart tops the class of goaltender prospects in the Flyers farm system. He is the franchise’s best hope for stability in net. Still, the rest of the netminders within the organization cannot be ignored. Even if they are not destined to man the crease for Philadelphia, they can become very valuable trade chips.