Future Flyers Report: What impact will Anthony Stolarz's season-ending injury have on future?

Future Flyers Report: What impact will Anthony Stolarz's season-ending injury have on future?

The Future Flyers Report lives to see another week.

With the AHL regular season now over-- spoiler alert: the Phantoms clinched a playoff berth -- and the CHL and SHL playoffs ongoing, there is still plenty of hockey to discuss.

So before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects still playing. This week, we'll feature a goalie who suffered a season-ending injury and a pair of Swedes who find themselves in the SHL final.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 23, 6-6/210, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
While the Phantoms clinched their playoff ticket last Wednesday night with a 2-1 shootout win over the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins, they did so at the expense of Stolarz, who suffered a serious lower-body injury and was seen on crutches after the game.

After Lehigh Valley clinched home ice in the first round last Friday with a comeback 5-4 win over Providence, coach Scott Gordon confirmed Stolarz will miss the postseason and will be out three-to-four months, according to Highland Park Hockey's Tony Androckitis.

With his season over -- one that saw a few call-ups and NHL games -- Stolarz now heads into the summer with several questions to be answered. Since the Flyers re-signed Michal Neuvirth, they now have the option to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz in the expansion draft, which will take place from June 18-20, but selections will be announced June 21.

Expansion draft aside, there are other questions surrounding Stolarz and the Flyers' goaltending situation in 2017-18. Despite re-signing Neuvirth, Hextall and Steve Mason both did not shut the door on Mason coming back next season last week, though Mason made it clear he's not open to returning if it was another season of platooning in net.

Mason also made it known that he is open to mentoring a young goalie -- such as Stolarz -- and understands the Flyers have a few kids coming up in the ranks; he just doesn't believe platoons work with goaltenders and rightfully pointed to Tampa and St. Louis as examples.

All signs still point to Mason leaving, however. Hextall said he believes Neuvirth will bounce back after a tough 2016-17, and gave pause when asked if he believes Stolarz will be ready for a full-time NHL backup job, leaving the door open for the team signing a short-term veteran backup netminder. There is also the slim possibility Hextall brings back both Mason and Neuvirth, promising Mason the No. 1 job. The answers to these questions will begin with the expansion draft because the Flyers have to protect either Neuvirth or Stolarz. If Neuvirth is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, it would then be likely Hextall tries to re-sign Mason. If Stolarz is unprotected and Vegas drafts him, Stolarz leaves. Then there's the possibility Vegas stays clear of both goalies no matter who's unprotected.

Goaltending will once again provide plenty of entertainment as the offseason approaches. There are several different scenarios that could play out that directly impact Stolarz. For now, though, the 23-year-old will spend the summer rehabbing his lower-body injury.

Stolarz finished 18-9-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .911 save percentage and one shutout in 29 games with the Phantoms this season. It was an up-and-down campaign in Lehigh Valley, but he did perform well in an extremely small sample size with the Flyers.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 20, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
As expected, Lindblom will be coming to North America full-time for the 2017-18 season, Brynäs IF coach Thomas Berglund confirmed to Swedish newspaper Expressen. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week that Lindblom has "come a long way since his draft year," and hopes the Swede will be here competing for a spot in training camp.

On the ice last week, Lindblom played a major factor into Brynäs IF beating Frölunda, 4-3, in seven games to advance to the SHL final, which began Sunday with HV71. Lindblom picked up two assists in Brynäs' 6-0, Game 6 win over Frolunda last Wednesday. He had a goal in Brynäs' 5-2 loss in Game 1 of the final against HV71 on Sunday.

But it was his performance in Game 7 on Saturday that stood out most, as he registered two goals and an assist in Brynäs' 3-1 series-clinching victory. He helped Brynäs take a 1-0 lead in the opening minute, throwing a shot off Frölunda goalie Johan Gustafsson's pads, leaving a rebound for Juuso Ikonen to put in. He then scored his first of the game, backhanding a rebound past Gustafsson to put Brynäs up, 2-0. With Brynäs up, 2-1, Lindblom capped off his game with a wicked wrister past Gustafsson to secure the win for Brynäs.

It was the type of effort Brynäs has come to expect from Lindblom this season. The winger has consistently been the team's best player and one of the SHL's top players all season long.

"A fantastic player who has had a grim development this year," Berglund told Expressen. "I've never seen a player who had such a development. He really has gone from strength to strength, both as a player and as a person."

Felix Sandstrom, G, 20, 6-2/187, Brynäs IF (SHL)
Sandstrom deserves just as much credit for Brynäs IF's advancing to the SHL final as Lindblom does, as the goaltender came up with two enormous performances in goal in Games 6 and 7 to help Brynäs come back from down, 3-2, to win the series, 4-3. Let's highlight his Game 7 performance, an effort that saw Sandstrom turn away 37 of 38 shots in a high-pressure situation. He consistently answered the bell, positioned himself well and didn't bend in a win-or-go-home game. His lone blemish saw a puck bounce off his own defenseman. An incredibly impressive performance for a 20-year-old in that situation, especially considering he pitched a 32-save shutout in Game 6 down 3-2 in the series.

Carter Hart, G, 18, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
Hart will get a taste of professional postseason hockey … at least as a backup. Hart joined the Phantoms on Sunday, according to The Everett Herald's Jesse Geleynse, on an amateur tryout contract (ATO). He will back up Alex Lyon in the postseason. It's unlikely he will play, however. With Hart's season coming to an end after Everett was swept by Seattle in the second round of the WHL playoffs, Hart was free to Lehigh Valley on the ATO. Hart finished the 2016-17 season 32-11-6 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with nine shutouts. He led the WHL in GAA, save percentage and shutouts. He was named the WHL Western Conference Goaltender of the Year. He was one of two WHL goalies on Team Canada during the world junior championships.

Quick hits
Philippe Myers was pointless in three games for Rouyn-Noranda last week. The Huskies were 1-2 in Games 3, 4 and 5 against Chicoutimi. They face elimination Monday in Game 6.

• Saint John swept Val-d'Or in its second-round series and is now 8-0 in the postseason. Samuel Dove-McFalls had an assist in both Games 3 and 4 and a goal and two assists in four games vs. the Foreurs. His team will face either Rouyn-Noranda or Chicoutimi in the semifinals.

Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal in Kelowna's 7-2 win over Portland last Wednesday. He was suspended for the Rockets' 6-2 win in Game 5 Friday. Kelowna faces Seattle next.

Mark Friedman made his professional debut in the Phantoms' regular-season finale Saturday night. Friedman registered an assist and finished as a plus-3 in Lehigh Valley's 4-1 win over Binghamton that clinched the Phantoms 101 points on the season.

• The Phantoms will face the Hershey Bears in the first round beginning Friday night. This is the first 100-point season for Lehigh Valley during the 76-game season era. The last time the Phantoms had a 100-point season was 2004-05 when they won the Calder Cup.

Travis Sanheim played a key role in Lehigh Valley's comeback win last Wednesday against Providence that clinched the Phantoms' playoff berth, picking up two assists.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Team Canada names Sean Burke GM for 2018 Olympics
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres re-sign goalie Lehner to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils re-sign 3 restricted free agents
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.