Philadelphia Flyers Midterm Top 25 Under 25, No. 8: Anthony Stolarz

Bruce Bennett

The first 2012 draft pick to crack the top 10, Anthony Stolarz is undoubtedly the Flyers' best goaltending prospect. He's currently in the process of rebounding from a scary skate cut injury suffered last month.

Anthony Stolarz

Birthdate: January 20, 1994 (age 20)
Acquired via: 2012 NHL Draft - Round 2, Pick 45
Current Team/League: London Knights, OHL
Nationality: USA (Edison, N.J.)
Size: 6'6", 220
Contract: $784,167 per year through 2017 (two-way, entry-level, slide-rule pending)

The Philadelphia Flyers acquired a wealth of raw talent over the course of the 2012 NHL draft. Anthony Stolarz, drafted 45th overall (2nd round), is no exception. Sitting at 6'6" and 220 lbs, the mammoth youngster has seen his fair share of ups and downs since entering the Philadelphia system (the downs are more of the unlucky nature, but we'll get to that..)

Stolarz was ranked 20th overall in Central Scouting's 2012 midterm rankings; by season's end? He was ranked the fourth-best North American goaltender. That's a crazy rise in just a few short months, considering he had only one year of experience in the Empire Junior Hockey League (EmJHL). Seriously, the EmJHL. What about Stolarz intrigued the Flyers?

Via Bill Meltzer:

The pick was made based on the recommendation of Neil Little, as well as Stolarz's impressive showing at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Nicknamed "Stollie the goalie", the personable 6-foot-6 New Jersey native's game is extremely raw but the combination of his size and athleticism convinced the Flyers to draft the fourth-ranked North American goalie above Finnish goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. The consensus top-three goalies in the draft (Andrei Vasilevski, Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk) were already off the board by the time the Flyers' second-round pick came up.

So Stolarz climbed up the draft rankings at a ridiculous pace and fell into Philadelphia's lap, it seems. Sound familiar? (Looking at you, Samuel Morin..) I suspect most Flyers fans hadn't heard of Stolarz before his selection in the 2nd round, and I certainly hadn't seen much of him myself. What would make him capable of a rise like that? I'm going to defer to someone who had watched a decent amount of Stolarz before his 2012 draft:

via Corey Pronman:

Stolarz is the definition of a "toolsy goaltender." He is 6'6'' giant who moves like a 6'1'' goaltender, with the athletic ability to make a highlight reel save. He has the ability to dominate a game with his net coverage and the difficult stops he can make. His feet are very good, as his lower movements and his glove can flash plus.

Well okay then. Stolarz is a butterfly goaltender; he's got the size and athletic ability to cover a good portion of the net at all times. He generally plays a good positional game, thus limiting options of opposing shooters. These are all good things. His biggest drawback? He was very raw when the Flyers selected him, and that's still the case today.

In 2012, as a freshman for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Stolarz appeared in just eight games, posting a 2-5-0 record, .2.56 GAA and .898 save percentage. UNO wasn't meant to be, however. The eighteen-year-old goaltender ended up jumping ship on January 7, 2013 to head to the CHL for the OHL-leading London Knights. Needless to say, UNO wasn't happy.

"I’m obviously disappointed by Anthony’s decision," said UNO coach Dean Blais in a news release. "He has been making a very challenging transition from the North American Hockey League to the WCHA and we, as coaches, saw good progress from him in the first half of the season. But ultimately, it’s his decision where he wants to play and we wish him the best in the next chapter of his career."

He immediately flourished in the CHL. In his first season with the Knights, Stolarz was marvelous en route to a 13-3-2 record, 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage. Now in his second season, Stolarz is currently 24-4-1 with a 2.58 GAA and .926 save percentage (second in the OHL.) I've watched quite a bit of him this year, and I've been very impressed with how well he's developed in this second season. Stolarz has been working on and has really excelled with his post-to-post coverage, something that was penned as a weakness heading into his draft year.

He was invited to USA's preliminary roster for the 2014 WJC and eventually made the cut. He backstopped USA to a 8-0, 15-save shutout win against Germany in his only start of the tournament. USA! Stolarz! America!

Unfortunately, Stolarz's development hit a pretty concerning snag last month; he was forced to leave a game after suffering a skate cut to the back of his leg. On Friday, January 17th, 2014, Saginaw Spirit's captain Eric Locke's skate blade slammed into the back of Stolarz's calf while Locke was engaged with London defenceman Dakota Mermis. Ugh. Not what you want to see. The Toronto Star called it a "sickening mishap," which is pretty on-point.

There's a video of the incident here. As one would expect, there' s a ton of blood, so, tread lightly.

He's been out since then, albeit quickly working his way back. Stolarz was expected to be out at least six weeks, but, as of yesterday, he had resumed skating. That's extremely good news for a kid that's bound to figure into the Flyers' future plans at some point.

He's the Flyers' best goaltending prospect. He's only 20 years old. He's already represented Team USA in international competition. If you haven't yet, start paying attention to Anthony Stolarz's progression.

How we voted for Anthony Stolarz:

Albert Allison Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Travis
12 9 7 6 12 6 13 8

Who we voted for at No. 8:

Albert Allison Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Travis
Robert Hagg Samuel Morin Samuel Morin Luke Schenn Jason Akeson Robert Hagg Robert Hagg Anthony Stolarz
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