The Anaheim Ducks have had a strong goaltending tandem over the past few years, with the duo of John Gibson and Ryan Miller. With Miller’s NHL future uncertain, however, the Ducks may need to be prepare to go into the season with a different backup goalie. Thankfully, they still have Anthony Stolarz in the system.
Stolarz has had some ups and downs throughout his career. He was selected 45th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012 and went on to have two excellent seasons with the OHL's London Knights. Upon making the jump to professional hockey, he was already a starting goalie in the AHL at 21 years old and then he ended up playing seven games with the Flyers in the 2016-17 season, where he stopped 168 of 181 shots, on route to a .928 save percentage.
He was out for almost the entire 2017-18 season dealing with a knee injury, however, and when he returned for the 2018-19 season, he struggled. Stolarz was then dealt to Edmonton, where he didn't fare any better.
Stolarz signed with the Ducks last offseason though and ended up having a bounce back year. He played with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, where he managed a very strong .922 save percentage as the team’s starter. He also started one game for the Ducks, where he stopped 34 of 36 shots against the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.
Stolarz may be 26 years old but we know that often, goaltenders take more time to develop. Recently, we’ve seen it with Jack Campbell, who was also 26 years old before he turned into full-time NHLer and of course, Jordan Binnington, who led the Blues to a Cup as a 25-year-old rookie after five and a half years in the minors.
A key factor is that Stolarz would likely only be counted on for 20-25 games next season. John Gibson can carry the bulk of the load and the limited workload would be a good way to ease Stolarz into becoming a full-time NHL goalie.
I think everyone is hoping Ryan Miller returns to the Ducks next season but at this point, it isn't a guarantee. After a great season with San Diego, however, Anthony Stolarz may get a chance in the NHL and if Miller doesn’t return, the Ducks should still have confidence that they can get decent goaltending with Stolarz.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Would you feel confident in Anthony Stolarz as Anaheim's backup goalie if Ryan Miller doesn't return?