Another hockey season is upon us, and yet another season where the Philadelphia Flyers have questions in goal. The tandem of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher are back for another year after going to the Stanley Cup Finals. Throughout the system, the Flyers have some promising prospects who may be the future in net.
After being picked up on waivers last season, Michael Leighton got the starting job after Ray Emery and Brian Boucher went down with injuries. Unfortunately, Leighton was injured in March, and watched Boucher start during the stretch run until he too got hurt in the second round and Leighton started from then all the way through the Cup Finals. After questions about who the 10-11 Flyers goalies would be, Leighton resigned for a modest 2 year, $3.1 million dollar deal. Combined with the returning Boucher, it seems that the 1-2 punch would be cemented. But now with an injury to Leighton in a preseason game with Toronto, more questions arise. GM Paul Holmgren and Coach Peter Laviolette aren’t too concerned at all, but there is a little doubt in fans’ minds.
Sergei Bobrovsky was brought over to North America in May after spending the last four years playing in the KHL in Russia. Bobrovsky got his first taste of NHL action Tuesday night against New Jersey, earning a win after a solid third period and a good shootout performance. Bobrovsky is most likely slated to play with the AHL Adirondack Phantoms, but that doesn’t stop fans from being excited about the potential the young Russian shows. He has played three of the four preseason games so far, and has played well. Competing with him for the Phantoms starting job will be Johan Backlund, who played 41 games with the Phantoms last year, and got himself into 2 Flyers games (one of which was a playoff game). Backlund is coming off hip surgery and is still recovering, which may give the edge to Bobrovsky. However, if an injury occurs at the NHL level, Backlund would likely be the guy called up.
Two prospects that won’t see NHL action any time soon, but are still on the radar are Nicola Riopel and Joacim Eriksson. Riopel played a few games with the Phantoms last year before being loaned back to his junior club in Moncton. With Bobrovsky and Backlund likely in Adirondack, Riopel may be relegated to the ECHL Greenville Road Warriors. Eriksson is a interesting name, being a 7th round pick in 2008, and working his way up to be the Flyers’ #1 prospect. This season, Eriksson will stay overseas with Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League.
For the past twenty years, the Flyers have had no luck in the goaltending department and it has cost them several times. Will the journeymen tandem of Leighton and Boucher step up and shine? Who will win the Phantoms job, and will he get a shot at the NHL? There are plenty of questions, but one thing is for sure. One injury allow a guy to be an unlikely hero; we saw it last year.