Andrew MacDonald set to return; Flyers could lose another player through waivers
VOORHEES, N.J. — The locker room designated for prospects at Flyers Skate Zone is starting to become bleak.
It’s a natural occurrence as the days of preseason dwindle.
There wasn’t much to see Saturday. With a small group of reporters hovering near a specific locker stall, a few prospects quipped about which player was being awaited.
“I’ve got 79 ideas,” Anthony Stolarz said.
Carter Hart is No. 79. You get the joke.
Hart is the kid in net dominating the discussion of goalies, a beloved topic in Philadelphia — always. The noise is reaching a new pitch as injuries have hit Alex Lyon and Michal Neuvirth in a four-day span. Lyon (lower body) is out approximately four weeks, while Neuvirth remains a mystery. The oft-injured goalie had another issue crop up Friday and general manager Ron Hextall expects him to miss time, how much unknown.
Outside of Hart and Stolarz, Brian Elliott is the healthy goalie. And even he’s coming off core muscle surgery last season and a summer of recovery.
Suddenly, the situation is breathing life into the notion of Hart cracking the roster at 20 years old.
Following a junior career full of accolades (see story), Hart owns the spotlight, one that has steadily grown ever since he was selected by the Flyers in the second round of the 2016 draft. He has stopped 45 of 47 shots during the preseason and is used to the attention, so he won’t change much as the doorway widens.
“I haven’t really looked at that,” Hart said. “For me, just taking things day by day. For now, I’m just focusing on we have a preseason game on Monday. I’m not sure who’s going to play or not, but you just have to be prepared. I have to come to the rink every day and be prepared for anything.
“Go with the flow, really.”
Creeping into the spotlight is Stolarz, an outcast of sorts entering training camp. He played in just one AHL game and three ECHL contests last season because of a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered during early September.
He understands the outside perception of where he stands.
“[Lyon, Hart, Felix Sandstrom], they’ve had pretty good seasons and you miss the entire year, don’t play any games, you’re obviously going to get lost in the shuffle,” Stolarz said. “But at the same time, it was more motivation for me to rehab and try to get back as soon as possible and show that I’m 100 percent and ready to go.”
On Saturday, a new September represented a new Stolarz, who has made 51 saves on 57 shots throughout exhibition play. The 24-year-old looks refreshed and sounds confident. The challenge makes the climb back worth it.
“You get hurt right around training camp, you’re obviously going to be a little upset, a little depressed,” Stolarz said. “At first, it kind of took its toll seeing guys going back down to Allentown, guys making the big club. But I had a great support staff, my family, my teammates, Jimmy McCrossin, Sal Raffa, I worked with Jarrod Spencer, the mental coach with the Phantoms.”
One of the positives Stolarz took out of the grind was going to “a ton of Flyers games,” he said, getting the chance to watch and learn by studying other netminders like Carey Price and Pekka Rinne.
While he was doing so, Hart was on the ice, finishing a mastery of the junior level. They were in drastically different spots. Now, they’re side by side with the same opportunity in sight.
And not just at Lehigh Valley.
More on the Flyers