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Former Flyers goalie raves about rookie Samuel Ersson

Samuel Ersson has raised some eyebrows in his rookie campaign.

Anaheim Ducks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled in the goaltending department for a pretty long time. It’s not exactly a secret at this point. Since the turn of the millennium, only one goalie — Steve Mason — has appeared in more than 200 games while wearing an orange and black sweater.

From Michael Leighton and Ilya Bryzgalov to Michael Neuvirth and Brian Elliott, consistency in net has been nothing but a fantasy in Philadelphia. In fact, the Flyers are just a few short years removed from calling upon seven (!) different goalies in a single season.

But against all odds, after years of incompetence in net, the Flyers are now in a place where goaltending has become perhaps the team’s biggest strength. Even though his statistics may not accurately reflect it, Carter Hart has established himself as a legitimate No. 1 goalie in the NHL. In what has been a nightmare of a season for the Flyers, Hart has largely been responsible for keeping his squad competitive on a nightly basis.

But now another goalie has entered the chat.

Samuel Ersson, a 23-year-old rookie from Sweden, has been turning heads since making his NHL debut in December. In seven starts, the fifth-round pick from 2018 has logged a 2.56 goals against average, a .913 save percentage, a shutout and a perfect 6-0-0 record — Hart was issued the loss in Ersson’s first NHL start.

Ersson’s most recent start was arguably his best of the bunch, turning aside 32 of 35 shots to help earn the Flyers a win over the Calgary Flames.

“He’s come in every time we’ve asked him to do something and he’s played very well,” said head coach John Tortorella after the victory over Calgary. “It’s really encouraging, not only for the short term here, but for the long term also.”

Tortorella isn’t the only one impressed with Ersson’s play.

While appearing on The Jeff Marek Show Friday, former Flyers goalie Mike McKenna — one of the seven goalies that suited up during the Flyers’ ugly 2018-19 season — raved about Ersson and the flexibility he’s given the Flyers in net.

He’s really impressed me, and I think that he’s given Philadelphia not just strength in goal, but assets in goal that they can use into the future. Even if you have a goalie like Carter Hart that you know is gonna be a franchise goalie for years to come, it behooves you as an organization to continue to develop goaltenders for trade reasons, for your No. 2 reasons in case your No. 1’s not available. This isn’t ‘93 anymore where the Devils didn’t develop a goalie for 15 years with Marty (Brodeur) in the net. They just didn’t. Ari Ahonen was their best prospect and nothing came of it for years, you know what I mean? You can’t do that anymore. So if you look at it from that perspective, it’s good biz.

But what I really like is that Ersson’s come in and he’s 6-0. You look at that right off the bat. But you have to look at how he’s going it. His mechanics are rock solid. And he mirrors Hart in a lot of ways that I think they play a similar game. They’re both pretty controlled. They both track the puck well. And for me, I think Hart’s been one of the top five goalies in the league this year. I don’t care what his normal save percentage is. When you watch those games and you look at advanced numbers, he’s been outstanding for that team. So I’m not surprised by it with Ersson, but you also have to look at the delta between him and other goalies in the organization. That’s always my metric.

Felix Sandstrom struggled a bit this year to start the year, but he also started the back end of every back-to-back. Torts never let him start the first game of a back-to-back series. So I felt like he got railroaded a little bit, but the bottom line is that Ersson’s come in to kind of a similar situation and he’s grabbed hold of it, been successful and largely mirrored or even bettered everything that Hart’s done. He’s only going to get better, and they’ve got a great goalie coach in Kim Dillabaugh there. I’m not surprised by it.

There haven’t been many positives to come out of this turbulent season, but the strong play of Ersson, as well as Hart, has been encouraging. And the Flyers will need their strong play to continue if they still have any hopes of qualifying for the playoffs.

With Hart coming off an ugly loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, Ersson will likely earn his eighth start Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.