Expectations for the Flyers Goaltending

There’s never a dull moment when talking about the state of the Flyers goaltending. A position that originally seemed like a major win when they finally signed 2015 draft pick Ivan Fedotov and managed to re-sign Felix Sandstrom has been cut off at the knees when the Russian army grabbed up Fedotov before he could leave for North America. While it’s not the end of the line for the Flyers, it does make a position that felt poised for an in-season battle for ice time a bit more cut and dry.

Carter Hart

Hart’s your guy. Don’t think that’s really in question these days, but what version of Hart we get absolutely is. We’ve seen him at his 2020 playoff best, and his 2021 worst, but more often than not he’s somewhere in between. Hart’s more than capable of playing above average on a nightly basis, but his numbers over the last few seasons have been less than impressive, mainly thanks to the trash roster surrounding him leaving him out to dry pretty much every game.

That’s not to absolve Hart of any wrong doing. There are definitely aspects of his game he needs to clean up to get back to his peak, but he finished the 2021-22 season with a 3.16 goals against average and .905 save percentage, both rather pedestrian numbers, and has racked up just 22 wins over the last two seasons. For the most part, that blood isn’t on his hands, but he needs to be better if the Flyers have any hope of success this season. The team still isn’t great on paper, but should be much better defensively with the return of Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes as well as the addition of head coach John Tortorella.

If the skaters clean up their act on the ice and Hart has some level of a rebound season in net, the Flyers are going to win more games than expected, but will it be anywhere good enough to challenge for a playoff spot?

Felix Sandstrom

Sandstrom was treated rather poorly by the organization down the stretch last season, yoyo-ing him between the AHL and NHL, where he rode the bench in favor or Martin Jones after Hart went down to injury. His numbers at both the NHL and AHL level haven’t been anything to write home about, thanks in part to a lackluster Flyers squad and an even worse Phantoms team, but his style is more than ready for an NHL backup role.

If Hart is healthy and playing at his normal level, Sandstrom will more than likely only see a start once every few weeks anyway. With Fedotov out of the picture for the time being, there’s no reason to think he won’t be the backup on opening night, and with a new two-year contract, if he can lock down the position he may finally get his foot in the door of the NHL.

Troy Groesnick

33-year-old Troy Groesnick is an… interesting addition by the Flyers. They were aware of the Fedotov situation by the time free agency rolled around, so this was probably an insurance move to give the team a third string goaltender, a role that was probably originally going to be filled by Sandstrom. Groesnick only has four NHL games under his belt, two in 2014-15 and two in 2020-21, spending the rest of his time in the AHL where he’s actually been pretty damn good. He posted a 2.00 goals against average last season with a .933 save percentage along with a 16-6-4 record with the Providence Bruins. He posted similar numbers (2.29 GAA / .920 SV%) in 2019-20 as well. He spent the 2020-21 season with the LA Kings as their taxi squad goalie. He’ll essentially reprise the role Alex Lyon held for years; a key member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the third string option on the depth chart if injury strikes at the NHL level.

Samuel Ersson

Ersson’s rookie season in North America didn’t exactly go as planned. He played in five games, only completing three, dealing with a lingering groin injury that he eventually underwent season-ending surgery for. He took part of Flyers rookie camp in July and said he feels good, albeit not quite being 100% recovered just yet. It’s possible he starts the season with the Reading Royals on a rehab assignment, but once given the green light, he will probably be given the chance to earn the starting job for the Phantoms later in the season. As long as Hart and Sandstrom can hold down the fort in the NHL, the name of the game for Ersson will be development, as he did look rather impressive positionally even dealing with a groin injury last season. Right now he’s more than likely still earmarked as the goalie of the future for the organization, but he’s got quite a bit to prove before he steps foot in the NHL.

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By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com

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