Confidence is critical in the NHL. Every player is at their best when they play with confidence or swagger. It is especially vital for a goaltender competing for their job, balancing the mental gymnastics with the physical duties between the posts.
At a time, Cal Petersen seemed like a promising netminder to usher in a new era for the Los Angeles Kings as Jonathan Quick entered his mid-thirties. He earned a 3yr/$15mil extension from Rob Blake on September 22, 2021, which kicked in the next season.
Petersen missed the final three days of the 2022 Kings Training Camp, including two chances at preseason minutes against the Vegas Golden Knights and versus the San Jose Sharks due to an undisclosed injury, but was ready to back up Quick by the opening night of the regular season.
Quick began the first two games of the season, surrendering seven goals en route to a 0-2-0 start for the Kings. Petersen earned the first win in 2022-2023 but gave up six goals against the Minnesota Wild. At the time, that performance could be a credit to missing the end of training camp. However, Petersen never found a rhythm in nine starts by November 22nd.
A week later, on November 29th, Petersen participated in his last NHL game with the Kings. In a chaotic contest versus the Seattle Kraken, he relieved Quick, who gave up five goals. Petersen allowed four more goals, losing 9-8 in overtime. The next day, he was demoted to the Ontario Reign. He descended into the AHL, and Pheonix Copley made a postseason push, joined by Joonas Korpisalo after the Kings dealt Quick to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who flipped Quick to the Golden Knights.
“It was a very challenging thing. I kind of looked at it two ways. I was like you can either give up and quit or you can go out and prove to everyone and prove to yourself the kind of goaltender and the kind of person and the kind of teammate you can be. It didn’t take me a long time to flip that switch and turn around. I credit the guys here too for bringing me in and allowing me to be part of the team right away.”Cal Petersen; 3/10/2023
In the AHL with the Reign, Matt Millar coached Petersen. Working on technique and watching tape, getting back to basics, helped Petersen regain confidence in the AHL. In 40 games, Petersen posted a 2.88GAA and 90.4%SV with a 16-20-4 record. He struggled in the AHL postseason, too.
Separate from the Kings organization, Petersen occupied the crease for the United States at the 2023 IIHF World Championships. He turned in a 3-0-0 record with a .76GAA and a 95.6%SV.
On the Philadelphia Flyers, Kim Dillabaugh is the goaltending coach. He has a solid track record, and if Petersen is going to prove the kind of goaltender he can be, Dillabaugh is a great resource. A change of scenery and a clean slate in Philadelphia, in the eyes of an optimist, could ignite a career renaissance.
That is at least the aim as the likely backup to Carter Hart.
Heading into the 2023 Flyers Training Camp, Sam Ersson will give Petersen his best competition. John Tortorella praised Ersson in 2022-2023, and he can freely flow between the AHL and NHL as a waiver-exempt goaltender. Dependent on Petersen, Ersson could remain in the AHL to play more minutes than he would in the NHL. Last season, Petersen did clear waivers, and his contract isn’t appealing. Petersen will get his opportunity with the Flyers, but if he doesn’t begin to swim, he could sink back to the AHL in favor of Ersson, repeating the defeat in Los Angeles.