Saturday, July 15, 2017

Anthony Stolarz: Two Autographed Cards

When the Philadelphia Flyers selected Anthony Stolarz with the 45th overall pick (second round) in 2012, the plan was to let the first New Jersey-born NHL-quality goalie slowly develop into a #1 goalie. Whether it was going to take seven years to become a top-level puck stopper (Carey Price) or nine (Jake Allen), GM Ron Hextall was not going to throw him to the wolves sooner than necessary.

Five years in, he saw his first 7 games of action in 2016-17, winning the first one, earning a shutout in the second, ending up with a 2-1-1 record, .928 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average, easily the tops on the team ahead of Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason.

That being said, his season in the AHL had its ups and downs, with a 2.92 GAA and .911 save percentage that ranked him behind Alex Lyon. So when Hextall extended both Lyon and Stolarz earlier today, it sent a clear message that Stolarz is not ready to be an NHL backup yet in his general manager's eyes. He'll need to dominate consistently in the AHL before getting that chance, which explains why Hextall also signed free agent on-again, off-again starter Brian Elliott for two years on July 1st.

I look forward to watching the 6'6" goalkeeper's development throughout the years. For now, however, here's a look at the uniforms he wore with the OHL's London Knights, starting with the black "away" one, with a throwback to the team's 1970s logo, on card #33 from In The Game's 2012-13 Between the Pipes set and CHL Prospects sub-set:
And here he is wearing the white alternate home uniform with the KNIGHTS downward wordmark, on card #12 from ITG's 2013-14 Heroes And Prospects set:
He signed both in blue sharpie, tagging his jersey number (43) at the end, during the 2014-15 AHL season, after a Lehigh Valley Phantoms game against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The cards show his goaltending stance very well: he's a tall, butterfly goalie who hasn't learned to keep his stick blade stuck to the ice and uses the "patting glove hand" method that cuts out some of the angles but reduces occurrences of reflex stops, particularly the middle two feet of the left post. I usually prefer when my students extend their hand outwards a little more to the left and not so much to the front - I'd rather their stance say "try me" than show fear and play safe, which I also call "play dead". But I've never played in the NHL, and Stolarz will one day star in it.

Fun fact regarding the cards: they do not agree on where he was born:
For the record, he was born in Edison and raised in Jackson.

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