How Samuel Ersson’s arrival impacts the Flyers goaltender situation
The Flyers announced Thursday afternoon that they have signed an entry contract with Swedish goaltender Samuel Ersson. According to CapFriendly.com, the deal is worth $ 925,000 for three years. With the signing, the Flyers add even more depth to the goaltending position in North America. Kirill Ustimenko is still a year old and has just had surgery to repair a torn labrum. Felix Sandstrom is a restricted free agent, but will likely be offered a contract when the time comes.
Interestingly, Samuel Ersson’s signing had some ripple effects across the organization. The Flyers have some decisions to make regarding Ersson and the other unnamed goaltenders Carter Hart.
The circle of life
Do you like this reference to the Lion King? Yes, this move can spell the end for Alex Lyon with the organization of the Flyers. Philadelphia simply has too many talented young goaltenders to occupy another spot in the roster of someone who is an NHL substitute at best. Kirill Ustimenko has just had major surgery, but has shown he can play in the previous season. If Sandstrom re-signs as many expect, he will be listed as one of the Phantoms goalkeepers. Carrying three goalies doesn’t make a lot of sense to the Phantoms.
Samuel Ersson, who made the jump to North America, made Lyon a must. Although he hasn’t proven himself on this side of the globe, it’s time to develop him into the goalkeeper he can be. Alex Lyon is known merchandise, and that’s not a bad thing. While he’s a solid option at AHL level, Ersson’s potential should definitely take precedence over Lyon’s skills when it comes to developing him.
Who is the AHL tandem?
Likely, the Phantoms will enter the 2021/22 season with two goalies in their roster. The two goalies will probably be the two with the most experience in North America. With Utimenko in good health and Sandstrom re-signing, it will be the two Phantoms goaltenders who will start the season. Much like their first professional season, Ersson will cut his teeth in the ECHL with the Reading Royals.
It’s not a bad thing either. Ustimenko adopted the North American style of play very well and posted a 19-4-5 record. Add to that his save percentage of .919 and his goals against average of 2.40 in 31 games during the 2019/20 season. While Sandstrom posted numbers that didn’t quite match Utimenko’s (13-11-1 with .885 sv% and 3.27 GAA), he found his place with Lehigh Valley a bit last season. He has played 11 games, going 5-3-4 on those outings. He improved both his save percentage (.903) and his goals against average (3.19.) While the numbers aren’t at all fantastic, the improvement is the improvement.
Can Samuel Ersson ward off the competition?
Earlier this week, the Flyers lost rights to Regina Pats goalie Roddy Ross. Ross was caught by the Flyers in the 6e round of the 2019 NHL Draft. While Ross was not the choice, the Flyers’ plethora of young net options for the Flyers could sideline some of the other vault contenders in North America.
In 2015, the Flyers beat Slovakian goaltender Matej Tomek in the third round of the draft. Tomek has since played for a different league each year, five in total. His numbers aren’t fantastic, but strong enough to eventually consider joining the Flyers’ organization. The Flyers have their rights until further notice, but Tomek has shown no sign of signing an ELC with Philadelphia. About the time a prospect would consider joining the organization that drafted him was when the Flyers’ goaltending pool began to fill. It’s understandable that at this time Tomek has shown no interest in joining the team due to the competition and future prospects in the pipeline.
To a greater extent, Flyers’ prospect Ivan Fedotov is still playing in Russia after being drafted in the same draft as Tomek. Caught in the seventh round, Fedotov is currently one of the best goalies in the KHL. While many are hoping the 6’8 “goalie will make the jump sooner rather than later, there is no sign that Fedotov is considering coming to North America. The KHL for Russian-born players is the NHL for born players in North America Fedotov may never make the jump because of this, or because the Flyers already have a myriad of young goalies who have made the jump and created a blockage within the organization.
While some of these points can be considered negative, Samuel Ersson signing his ELC is the ultimate positive. The promising young goalkeeper spent time in Sweden’s top professional league at the age of 21. He’s ready for the pros and could have an immediate impact with the organization of the Flyers. Perhaps a stint with the Reading Royals is in the cards just to acclimate to the style of play here in North America. If he succeeds brilliantly, as many suggest, he can force Chuck Fletcher’s hand and warrant a call to the Phantoms to test his mettle at a higher level. After that, it might only be a few years before we see him as Carter Hart’s replacement.
However, let’s not get carried away. The Flyers have a crying need behind Carter Hart that will likely not be met by any of the names mentioned above. While Ersson may be more promising than any young goalie without Carter Hart, he will need time to adjust to North American hockey. Let him get his representatives at the ECHL / AHL level. It worked with Ustimenko, so a similar approach may be best for the Flyers organization, and ultimately Samuel Ersson.
Photo credit: Alex McIntyre