Flyers goaltending prospect Anthony Stolarz enters his third season since turning pro and made significant strides in his sophomore year. He earned a trip to the AHL All-Star Classic, appeared in 16 more games and nearly double the amount of minutes in net.
A big part of that growth he contributes to the veteran presence he has had beside him thus far and now he feels ready to take the reigns.
“It's a change for me. The last two years, having Zepper [Rob Zepp] and Barbs [Jason LaBarbera] I think that was good for me to have those two guys,” said Stolarz. “I was able to take aspects of their game and apply it to my own and see how they handle themselves. They both played years upon years of professional hockey so I took some things from them and implemented them into my game.”
2015-16 was also a big learning experience from another standpoint. He has yo-yo’d up and down from Lehigh Valley in his first two years.
One would hope, but maybe not realistically expect, to make your NHL debut as a goaltender in your first recall to the NHL, as a 21-year old rookie. But you probably would think that being recalled four times and being on the roster sheet for 16 games in his second pro season without playing a single minute would be discouraging.
Not for Stolarz.
“Everytime you get called up there’s that little adjustment period from the AHL to the NHL,” said Stolarz. “For me, early on I really didn’t know what to expect but especially in my last call up last year when Neuvy was hurt, I felt comfortable with the group of guys because I’ve been up so much and there wasn’t really that big of an adjustment. I think for me being called up a couple times it’s been good for my development and good to play against these kind of players, and see how they handle themselves and what kind of lifestyle they lead. It makes me work harder to try and get up here.”
Stolarz will get his chance to make an impression come fall when main camp opens, but certainly knows how well the tandem of Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth did last year to lead the club back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“For sure you want to go in with the mindset that you’re vying for a spot on the Flyers, but reality is that they have two guys [Mason & Neuvirth], so for me I want to leave an impression on the coaching staff and make decisions difficult for them. I’m just going to go out there and work hard.”
The 6’6”, 210-pound netminder taken 45th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft is spending his second straight summer training at the team’s practice facility in Voorhees, NJ, where he feels that he can get a head start on camp and is hoping to see a fair share of preseason games, especially considering Neuvirth will spend a portion of camp competing in the World Cup of Hockey Tournament for the Czech Republic.
As far as goals for the upcoming season. Leading the Phantoms back to the playoffs and making an NHL debut are definitely at the top of his list.
“I think I took huge strides last year and this year one of my goals is to make the playoffs. In Lehigh Valley, we have a team that [management] put us in a good position to win and bringing the playoffs to Allentown would be a great story, and obviously seeing that building with a packed house and playoff atmosphere would be great.”
“But for me personally if I get the opportunity to get called up, I would love to play a game and go out there and prove that I can handle playing at the NHL level so if that opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”