Philadelphia Flyers

Finally settled in, Stolarz focused on development

anthony-stolarz-slide-philadelphia-flyers-3.jpg

Finally settled in, Stolarz focused on development

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It had been a crazy couple of years for Anthony Stolarz.

Two seasons ago, the now-19-year-old goalie barely made it onto the roster of the NAHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays. His family had to drive from their home in Jackson, N.J., to New York before flying to Dallas where Stolarz eventually made the team.

The following year, he made plans to attend and play for the University of Nebraska Omaha, but after a while of riding the bench, an opportunity arose in London, Ontario, to join the OHL’s Knights.

So, once again, Stolarz hustled to a new city.

Now, finally, he knows exactly where he fits in, and he’s free to focus solely on his development.

“It’s finally nice to be settled in and know where I’m going to be this year,” Stolarz said. “Being settled in, it’s going to be a benefit for me. I’m not going to have to think too much about anything or make any difficult decisions.

“I’ll be in one place all year, so that’s something that will be a change for me -- and it will be very nice.”

The towering netminder (he’s 6-foot-6) will return to London this fall and rejoin the defending OHL-champion Knights, where he finished his first season with a 2.29 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 20 games.

And when he arrives, he said, he’ll be an even stronger player than he was at this time last year.

“I think my patience is something I’ve worked on,” he said. “Rebound control. Those are two things that I worked on with [goalie coach] Jeff Reese this week, and I think from Day 1 when I was here at development camp last year 'til now, it’s tremendously improved.”

That improvement was absolutely on display Monday, when Stolarz teamed up with fellow Flyers goalie prospect Carsen Chubak to help the Flyers' rookies shut out the Washington Capitals' rookies, 1-0, in the teams' annual rookie game.

Stolarz’s family still resides in Jackson, and the ability to spend the summer at home meant he was a mere 45 minutes away from Skate Zone. That proximity allowed Stolarz to work out at the Flyers’ practice facility five days a week and spend time around players like Marc-Andre Bourdon, Nick Cousins, Derek Mathers and Mark Alt, who were also in town.

Talking to players who have been around the organization and have played at the pro level taught him a lot, Stolarz said. But there are still elements of his game that need improvement.

“Definitely just foot speed and beating the pass,” he said. “A big thing we’re working on this week is getting across [the crease] and getting hard pushes and moving around the crease. You look at the guys out here, and it’s definitely a lot faster than what I’m used to.

"For me, it’s just getting used to that pace and making myself quicker during the season and the offseason, to be able to compete at this level.”

When the Flyers drafted Stolarz in 2012 in the second round (45th overall), he was a confident, aggressive 18-year-old. His attitude showed even in his draft interview, when he joked with reporters and was hardly shy like draftees often are. That mindset, too, has improved, Stolarz said.

“In terms of the aggressiveness, I think I’ve calmed down a little bit,” he said. “I’m not as all over the place. A big thing with coach Reese, he’s wanted me to simplify my game and stay back a little more and let the game come to me, and I think I’ve definitely seen improvement with that.”

That said, Stolarz is still confident. He's aware of the pressure he faces, considering where the Flyers selected him, and his eyes are still on the ultimate goalie prize.

“Going in as a second-round pick, I feel that I want to live up to expectations,” he said. “I want to come to Philadelphia and be the No. 1 guy, be the guy.”

Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

flyers-islanders-patrick-pulock.jpg

Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

Flyers vs. Islanders
7 p.m. on TCN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

We'll have to wait another day to see if the Flyers truly plan on experimenting with Claude Giroux on the wing … if we ever see it at all in a game situation.

Giroux is not playing in tonight's split-squad game against the Islanders either in Allentown or Brooklyn. Tonight's rosters are heavy of players competing for spots.

Here are a few reasons to watch tonight:

• We'll get a look at the majority of the Flyers' defense tonight in Allentown as Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are suiting up.

Gostisbehere is a lock, and Manning is as close to a lock as you can get. He could still lose his NHL job, but it appears unlikely at this point.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Hagg and Morin came into training camp as the favorites, and they appear to have taken a stranglehold on their competition.

Many thought Sanheim would push for a job, along with Phil Myers, but neither Sanheim nor Myers have done enough in camp to make the team. Things can change, but they're behind.

What I'll be watching: Gostisbehere and Hagg will be paired together. This could be a pairing when the Flyers open their season in San Jose on Oct. 4.

• Nolan Patrick has yet to find the scoresheet in last week's rookie game and last Sunday, but the 19-year-old — his birthday was Tuesday — hasn't looked out of place.

Patrick's spot on the Flyers has yet to be secured. As in they haven't said he's on the team yet. But he's had a steady camp and looked too good to play with kids his age in the rookie game and didn't look misplaced in his first preseason game.

Tonight gives us another look at the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. For many, it will be their first glimpse at Patrick. I'd bet on him getting on the scoresheet tonight.

On Sunday, the Islanders sent out a largely veteran lineup filled with most of their star players. Patrick passed that test. Tonight in Allentown, it's a little less star-studded Isles team. Patrick will be playing with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Michal Neuvirth will be in net tonight with Leland Irving backing him up, and with the Flyers banking a lot on Neuvirth this season, it'll be worth watching.

Neuvirth has never stayed healthy throughout his career. When he has, he's largely been a solid goalie. Last season was a different story. Neuvirth had the worst save percentage among qualified goalies, and he simply wasn't good.

The Flyers moved on from Steve Mason and signed Brian Elliott this summer. It's going to be a tandem with Neuvirth and Elliott, who isn't playing tonight in either Allentown or Brooklyn. How it works is a big question mark.

What you want to see from Neuvirth tonight is a steady performance. It's his first action of the year, so there will probably be rust. But you don't want to see too much rust, and you want to see him get steadier as the game goes on.

We don't know how much he'll play tonight, whether they'll split the game with Irving. But Neuvirth is definitely a player to watch tonight.

• Here are the rosters for tonight's split-squad game:

Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

usa-overwatch-league-esports.jpg
USA Today Images

Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

Comcast Spectacor is bringing an Overwatch League team to Philadelphia.

Making the move into the esports space from its sports management roots, Flyers owner, Comcast Spectacor, has bought into Blizzard Entertainment’s upcoming Overwatch League. 

“Comcast Spectacor is thrilled to play a central role in the Overwatch League’s inaugural season and energize the growing esports community in Philadelphia and beyond,” Dave Scott, president and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said.  

Joining the budding esports league for a reported $20 million, the team will represent Philadelphia when the inaugural campaign begins a full season on Jan. 10, 2018. Comcast Spectacor and Philadelphia joins Team Envy and their investor, Hersh Interactive Group in Dallas and OpTic Gaming in Houston as the final three teams to join the 12 team league.

The investment is Comcast Spectacor’s first dive into esports, joining Robert Kraft (Boston), Jeff Wilpon (New York), Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Group (Los Angeles), Neil Leibman (Houston), Andy Miller (San Francisco) and more, as Overwatch League owners. Other locations featured in the league will include London, England, Seoul, South Korea and Shanghai, China.

“An esports franchise is a great addition to our portfolio of sports and entertainment assets," Scott said. "We believe that Overwatch League is uniquely positioned to succeed.” 

The investment into esports rivals the Sixers’ ownership group, which acquired esports teams, Team Dignitas and Team Apex, in 2016. Nearly identical to the Overwatch League setup, the Sixers bought into the NBA-run NBA 2K League, which is set to begin in its inaugural season in spring of 2018.

Similar to any of the five major U.S. sports leagues, Overwatch League will be powered by owners that will recruit, build and fund a roster of players to compete in a scheduled season. And like any expansion franchise, Comcast Spectacor will create a new team, including roster and brand.

What makes Overwatch League different from most esports competitions is its geo-based foundation. Most esports leagues and tournaments feature club teams, like Sixers-owned Team Dignitas, which are labeled more by country than city or state. With Overwatch League, Philadelphia will be represented by the Comcast Spectacor franchise and will face off against other cities.

But while Philadelphia will act as home to the team, the inaugural season will take place solely in Los Angeles at the newly minted Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, the converted Burbank Studios that formerly played host to the Tonight Show. Eventually, the players are expected to live and practice in their host city.

Overwatch is a popular multi-platform Blizzard Entertainment first-person shooter that surpassed the 30 million player milestone earlier this year. Matches pit six human players against six human players with an objective to attack and defend.