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The Philadelphia Flyers will reshuffle their organization depth chart at the goalie position. Carter Hart will not factor into the team’s plans for the foreseeable future, and rookie Sam Ersson now assumes the top spot. 

The future in the crease was an intriguing storyline entering the 2023-24 season for a franchise marred by goaltending issues for decades. It appeared the organization had finally found their solution with excellent depth. What are the Flyers left with now in Hart’s absence?

Sam Ersson

Ersson suddenly has room to flourish as the top goaltender for a team in position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 24-year-old Swedish netminder has also earned the confidence of John Tortorella as the Flyers enter the stretch run in the thick of the Metropolitan Division race.

The Flyers even had the confidence to shop Carter Hart during their first offseason under the guidance of GM Danny Briere. The extenuating off-ice circumstances shut down any chance of a trade. 

Flyers Goaltender Depth

The 2023-24 Flyers need a backup goalie behind Ersson to play between five and 10 games for the remainder of the regular season. Cal Petersen got the call ahead of Felix Sandstrom. Both goalies have struggled to gain footing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season.

The pipeline also includes two picks from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Philadelphia has carried the weight of the “Goalie Graveyard” narrative with a seemingly endless revolving door in net.

How will the situation shake out in the crease at the Wells Fargo Center?


  • Sam Ersson

    After a solid 12-game audition in 2022-23, Ersson stumbled out of the gates despite landing a more stable job as the unquestioned backup behind Hart. He allowed 12 goals in his first two games and left his third game early after saving just seven of the first nine shots he saw. 

    Tortorella’s consistent compliments about Ersson’s demeanor continued despite the slump.

    “Sam has showed us many times that he can bounce back… I think he self-evaluates very well. That’s a really important part of a player, their self-evaluation. I think he’s very strict with that, as far as how he feels about himself. I think that’ll get him through it.” -John Tortorella (11/1/23)

    Ersson has bounced back from the cringy early-season statistics for .903 save percentage (SV%) through 27 appearances in 2023-24. He has three shutouts, and strong individual efforts have helped the Flyers compensate for slow nights and come away with points to stay ahead of some capable divisions teams lurking behind them.

    Ersson currently ranks 22nd of 67 NHL goaltenders with 4.8 goals saved above expected (GSAx), considered the most comprehensive analytical goaltending stat. Hart ranked just below the league median at -.7 before his leave of absence began on Jan. 23.

    The Flyers selected Ersson in the 5th round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He rose up the organizational depth chart consistently while playing professionally in Sweden before his transition to the North American game in 2022.

    He has never been a top prospect or a heralded savior of the notorious “Goalie Graveyard” in Philadelphia. However, he’s shown the steady development and the flashes of excellence that just might be enough for a lesser-known player to become a star at the most unpredictable position in hockey.

    Most Philadelphia fans probably haven’t seen enough of Sam Ersson to deem him the franchise goaltender. However, the astonishing reality is that they could be watching him between the pipes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two months. 

    He’s never given any indicator he can’t handle the opportunities thrown at him. All signs are positive for a goaltender with minimal NHL experience, but now Philadelphia will see what Sam Ersson is made of.

    “This is a great opportunity for him to shoulder a lot of the heavy load.” -Danny Briere

    Sam Ersson, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Cal Petersen

    Danny Briere acquired Cal Petersen from the Los Angeles Kings as part of the Ivan Provorov deal in what looked like just a salary dump to the rebuilding team. The willingness to provide cap relief, however, gave the Flyers a third goaltender with over 100 games of NHL experience who could easily clear waivers because of $5 million annual cap hit.

    Petersen has struggled with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. Hids .890 SV% and 3.26 GAA didn’t earn him the callup. However, the opportunity to revitalize his NHL career just fell into his lap.

    It’s realistic to think Petersen can prove himself as a capable backup goaltender for the remainder of the 2023-24. If he plays well in 5-10 starts to finish the season, he could provide the Flyers with a convenient stopgap as a backup goalie until his contract expires after the 2024-25 season.

    If he plummets like he did with the Kings and the Phantoms, the door opens for Felix Sandstrom.

    Cal Petersen, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Felix Sandstrom

    Sandstrom posted underwhelming statistics in 20 games with the Flyers last season. John Tortorella candidly admitted multiple times that he hoped his backup goaltender could’ve made an extra save when the Flyers needed it.

    Tortorella didn’t put Sandstrom in the best position to succeed because the continued starts in back-to-back situations meant a tired defense – that didn’t have sound structure to begin with – wouldn’t do him many favors.

    Sandstrom hasn’t proven that a brutal NHL stat line in 2022-23 was a mistake though. He’s followed it up with an additionally brutal .833 SV% in 18 games in the AHL this season. It’s reasonable to make the case that Petersen hasn’t earned the opportunity either.

    However, at age 27, it simply isn’t likely that Sandstrom will ever get another extended opportunity at the NHL level if the Flyers didn’t call him up after Hart’s leave of absence.

    Felix Sandstrom, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Alexei Kolosov

    The Flyers spent a 3rd-round pick in 2021 Alexei Kolosov. The Belarusian goaltender was one year older with more professional experience than most goaltenders who get drafted.

    Successful NHL goaltenders like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Ilya Sorokin all developed in the KHL, widely considered the second-best hockey league in the world. Kolosov has put together a solid body of work in the Russian league beginning before the Flyers drafted him. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract during the 2023 offseason before the organization loaned him back to the KHL.

    He’s climbed higher in the ranks of the organization’s top prospects with players like Cam York and Tyson Foerster reaching full-time NHL status. Most reputable outlets rank him ahead of 2023 draft picks Carson Bjarnason and Egor Zavragin.

    He’ll likely emigrate to the United States to begin the 2024-25 season. Goaltenders sometimes need time to adjust to the North American ice surface, which is smaller than some KHL rinks, so Kolosov might not be ready to jump right to the NHL.

    Ersson played professionally in Sweden before he began his career in North America in 2022. Kolosov will be right around the same age with notable professional experience internationally if he joins the Flyers at training camp during the 2024 preseason. 

    It’s reasonable to expect a veteran like Petersen or Sandstrom to play behind Ersson to begin the 2024-25 season while the organization evaluates Kolosov at the AHL level. However, it’s safe to say the Flyers evaluate his ceiling much higher than either of the two stopgap options.

  • Carson Bjarnason

    No goaltenders came off the board during the 1st round of the 2023 NHL Draft. The Flyers then quickly joined a barrage by selecting Carson Bjarnason as the fourth of five goaltenders picked in the 2nd round. He topped some prospects lists within the condensed goalie market in his draft class.

    Bjarnason is playing in his third season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, the most competitive level of Canadian junior hockey. Corey Pronman of The Athletic spoke highly of Bjarnason’s hockey IQ and his development as a technically sound goaltender.

    However, Philadelphia fans excited to see another talented prospect must also consider that goaltenders typically spend more time developing at lower levels than skaters do.

    It’s part of the reason NHL GMs tend to pass on goalies in the 1st round. A front office executive without job security beyond two or three seasons has very little personal incentive to pick a goaltender who’ll could easily take five years to reach the NHL. 

    It’s good to see the Flyers stocking up the pipeline with a high volume of goalies, but don’t hold your breath waiting for Bjarnason to reach the NHL.

    Carson Bjarnason, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Egor Zavragin

    The Flyers landed another goaltender at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft when they selected Egor Zavragin. The 6-foot-2 Russian was only 17 at the time of the draft. Pronman questioned his quickness as a weakness that Zavragin will need to improve if he wants to reach the NHL. 

    It’s likely that his age, draft position, and nationality push back his timeline even further than Bjarnason’s. Consider that Sam Ersson, a 5th-rounder in 2018, made his NHL debut over four years after the Flyers drafted him.

  • Ivan Fedotov

    Flyers fans needed excitement in February 2022 while the team limped toward the finish line of an embarrassing season. Ivan Fedotov emerged out of nowhere seven years after the Flyers drafted him.

    The Russian looked poised to play in the NHL before mysterious circumstances involving the Russian military derailed his chances. It seems unrealistic to think Fedotov has any future in North American hockey. 

    Ivan Fedotov, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Matej Tomek

    The Flyers have not signed 2015 draft choice Matej Tomek. He’s played professionally in Czechia and in international competitions with Slovakia, but he doesn’t likely have a future in North America. If anything, his standing in the organizations nine years after they drafted him should help fans realize the timeline of goaltender development.

    Matej Tomek, Philadelphia Flyers

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