Anthony Stolarz's big season took a big blow Thursday.
The Flyers' goalie prospect underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee and will be out indefinitely. He tore his MCL at the end of last season, as well.
Stolarz, 23, was expected to start this season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and battle fellow goalie prospect Alex Lyon for playing time. When Stolarz returns — recoveries from such a surgery can vary — he'll have to make up for lost time in another contract year.
A restricted free agent this offseason, Stolarz re-signed on a one-year deal in July. He is set to become an RFA again after the 2017-18 season, along with the 24-year-old Lyon.
Stolarz was selected by the Flyers in the second round of the 2012 draft. He's currently in a crowded group of goalie prospects, including Lyon, Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.
Lyon was about to enter training camp in a neck-and-neck race with Stolarz. Hart, 19 years old, has another year of junior hockey, while Sandstrom, 20, is in the SHL, but both could be the favorites as the Flyers' goalies of the future.
As for Stolarz, after posting a 2.60 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 2015-16 with the Phantoms, he saw his GAA rise to 2.92 last season and save percentage dip to .911. He made his NHL debut last November and went 2-1-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average over seven games (four starts) with the Flyers.
The injury to Stolarz explains Lehigh Valley's signing of 26-year-old goalie Leland Irving last week. The Phantoms also signed 31-year-old goalie Mark Dekanich on Friday.
What the injury means significantly is that Lyon will see major opportunity in net for Lehigh Valley, a golden chance to impress the big club for the future and prove his worth as the primary call-up option this season should an injury arise among the Flyers' goalie tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott.