VOORHEES, N.J. -- Anthony Stolarz grew up a Devils fan living in Jackson, New Jersey, just five minutes from Six Flags Great Adventure.
There was really only one Devil that Stolarz took to heart -- Marty Brodeur. And for obvious reasons, with Stolarz being a goaltender himself.
“He was my favorite goalie,” Stolarz said on the opening day of Flyers developmental camp at Skate Zone.
Unless something unforeseen occurs, Stolarz -- who is currently recovering from offseason hip surgery (see story) -- will be the starting goalie this season for the Phantoms.
These are melancholy times for the 20-year-old Stolarz as Brodeur is a man without a hockey home. The Devils signed Cory Schneider to a seven-year, $42 million contract extension this week as Brodeur’s heir in the nets.
“I think looking at it, [Brodeur’s] one of the greatest goalies of all-time, and if he’s not brought in to start somewhere, he’s going to help a younger goalie develop,” Stolarz said.
He’s arguably the greatest goalie of all-time, so I think any team having him on its roster would be a plus.”
Though their styles differ -- Brodeur a hybrid standup, Stolarz a butterfly style -- there was one aspect of Brodeur’s play that the 6-foot-6 Stolarz studied very closely all these years. His puck-handling.
Ron Hextall was outstanding at it, actually scoring on empty nets, and Brodeur took it to another level.
“The only thing I tried to emulate from him is his puck-playing skills,” Stolarz said. “Obviously, as a goalie you want to go out there and help the defensemen and play the puck. That makes their job a lot easier.
“For [Brodeur's] age, the way the game has progressed and how much faster it’s gotten, he hasn’t had to change his style. He still wins hockey games at the age of 40. It’s pretty amazing.”
Stolarz thinks all that attention paid to handling pucks around the crease has paid off so far in his junior career at London (OHL). This season, he’ll get a chance to see how much it helps him at the pro level with the Phantoms.
“I think watching him and seeing the way he helped the defensemen ... instead of leaving it behind the net and having them come all the way to make that first pass to the defenseman in the corner, it makes their transition a lot easier.
“I think from a goalie aspect, it’s just about confidence. If Schneider was a little timid going around back ... I think as a goalie you’re going to mess up. You’re going to make mistakes playing the puck.”
Stolarz, who met Brodeur as a kid but never had actually had a conversation with him, said he might have issues initially with the larger trapezoid in the AHL, but he’ll get the hang of it.
“Any time you can go out and play the puck it’s beneficial for the team,” he said. “I like going out there. It keeps me focused. You feel like you’re part of that game when you’re not getting a lot of shots. When you can go out there and play the puck, it kind of gets you in a little bit of a rhythm.
“I think the big thing is having the confidence after you make a mistake to go back out there and play it again. It’s something that’s in my repertoire and a bonus in my game. It’s almost like having a third defenseman.”
The way Stolarz sees it, he can thank Marty Brodeur for the help.
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