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Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Anthony Stolarz drops to No. 12 after subpar season

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Goaltender Anthony Stolarz had a season to forget with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year, but he remains the Flyers best netminding prospect even with competition on the way.

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Stolarz

Position: Goaltender
Birthdate: January 20, 1994 (21)
Acquired Via: 2012 NHL Draft - Round 2, Pick 45
2014-15 Team/League: Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL - 3.28 GAA, .905 SV% in 31 GP
Nationality: American (Edison, NJ)
Size: 6'6", 210
Contract Status: Signed on entry-level contract through 2017
Ranking in August 2014 25 Under 25: 8

Coming into the 2014-15 season, Anthony Stolarz was essentially Philadelphia's prime goaltending prospect. There was no competition, no pressure to perform based upon the stats of his teammates, just Stolarz taking the backup job for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms behind journeyman Rob Zepp for his first stint in the AHL.

But somehow, it didn't go as planned for the now 21-year-old netminder. Stolarz had an extremely subpar season last year with very few flashes of the high end potential many fans, coaches, and scouts saw when the Flyers drafted him in 2012.

It's hard to say exactly what went wrong for Stolarz in his first professional year. Maybe it's just that, the young netminder had a hard time adjusting to the AHL after putting up extremely solid numbers with the London Knights of the OHL for one and a half seasons. With two years of a sub-2.55 goals against average and a save percentage over .920, it's to be expected that a goaltender experiences some growing pains when moving up to the next tier.

That being said, Stolarz's numbers were extremely flat last season, with his save percentage dropping to .905 and his GAA skyrocketing to 3.28 over 31 games played with the Phantoms. His 9-13-4 record with Lehigh Valley was his lowest win total in any season where he's played over 20 games. While some of his struggles could be attributed to the toils of the Phantoms' club themselves, last season was still a definite setback for Stolarz.

However, it's almost the start of a new season and now Stolarz has something he hasn't had in his time in the Flyers organization: competition. With Philadelphia drafting not one, but three netminders in this past draft, Stolarz now has even more motivation to bounce back from last year's stumble.

Stolarz himself sees the good in a bit of internal pressure with his comments to Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer during this July's development camp:

"There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition. For me, I have to elevate my game. I have to step up and start producing. I want to go out this year and make a statement."

With Zepp likely gone from the Phantoms and new acquisition in NHL veteran Jason LaBarbera looking to take the starting job in Lehigh Valley, Stolarz should have more room to find his footing in the AHL under an experienced netminder. Stolarz should also benefit from new goaltender development coach Brady Robinson, friend of one of the Flyers more recent hirings in goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

Regardless of his struggles last season, Stolarz is one of the highest rated Flyers prospects not guarding the blue line and clearly the closest to NHL-ready of any of Philadelphia's young goaltenders. Stolarz plays a big game with his 6-foot-6, 220 pound frame and has shown many moments of brilliance that has garnered quite a bit of attention. There's no question Stolarz will have to pick up his game this season to erase the previous year from many a memory, but with one AHL year under his belt and healthy competition on the way, there's no reason the young netminder shouldn't return to form.

In the meantime, here are some highlights from Stolarz's performance in his appearance for Team USA in the U20 tournament back in 2013 that includes six shootout stops, with two coming against breakout Chicago Blackhawk rookie Teuvo Teravainen:

How we voted for Anthony Stolarz:

Al Allison Andrew Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Mary Meseret Ryan Travis
9 10 14 12 12 13 17 13 10 21 12 10

Who we voted for at No. 12:

Al Allison Andrew Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Mary Meseret Ryan Travis
Nicolas Aube-Kubel Nicolas Aube-Kubel Travis Konecny Anthony Stolarz Anthony Stolarz Mark Alt Mark Alt Taylor Leier Nick Cousins Tyrell Goulbourne Anthony Stolarz Nick Cousins