Anthony Stolarz

There's more to Alex Lyon than just NHL dreams with Flyers

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

There's more to Alex Lyon than just NHL dreams with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — As the Flyers tee it up Tuesday during their annual tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Pine Hill, New Jersey, Alex Lyon may be the rare athlete who’s more interested in Trump’s plans for diplomacy than the layout of his golf courses.

The Flyers' netminder has two real passions in life moving forward: playing in the NHL and studying nuclear war. We’ll elaborate on the latter of those two topics in a moment.

As far as the hockey, Lyon enters Year 2 in the Flyers' organization with his head securely focused on playing the game, whereas this time last season, his mind was spinning in different directions.

“Last year, training camp was a novelty,” Lyon said last week. “This year, I know what to expect and I know where I can push the limits and I feel I’m coming in to do damage, rather than coming in to see what’s going on. It’s amazing the difference in mentality between Year 1 and Year 2. Honestly, the confidence level is so much better.”

Handling and maintaining his responsibilities as a professional were a big chunk of Lyon’s adjustment, as was trying to find answers to his own hypothetical questions.

“Where’s this guy at? What’s this guy doing? Who’s being drafted and all that nonsense,” Lyon said. “Now I’ve tried to change my mindset and say, ‘Let’s just focus on making Alex Lyon the best hockey player he can be and let the chips fall where they may.’ I think I’ve been improving more and more because I’ve been so happy. Once you cut out that other stuff, there’s not that much to worry about.”

An unknown commodity a year ago, Lyon exceeded expectations in his first year in Lehigh Valley working in tandem with Anthony Stolarz, who spent an early part of the season with the Flyers. Now that Stolarz has reinjured the meniscus in his left knee, Lyon now has less competition for the starting job in Lehigh Valley and one fewer obstacle on the organizational depth chart in the event Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth suffer an injury.     

“To see him build on his year last year, he did a real good job,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He wasn’t a guy that was talked about a whole lot, but he did have a real solid year last year in Lehigh Valley. He just has to improve on that and keep building. I know he’s had a good summer. He’s very dedicated in the way he works at his game. Now he’s got to carry that through to a good training camp up here, and I hope over the next few weeks he can have a real solid body of work.”

Indeed, Lyon also has the mentality to play the position. He left Yale University just six credit hours shy of finishing his degree in political science, and he can’t graduate until he returns to the New Haven, Connecticut campus to write his senior thesis on ... global nuclear war. Considering the state of current affairs with Kim Jong Un and North Korea, that thesis appears to be writing itself.

“Nuclear weapons really do interest me,” Lyon said. “It’s an interesting philosophy because nuclear weapons are the best deterrent for nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction — it’s a buzz phrase and you would use it in every single test you would write. Mutually assured destruction is: If Russia bombs us with a nuclear weapon, it's mutually assured that we’re going to bomb each other. It’s over!”

Now you have gained some insight into what runs through the mind of a goaltending Ivy Leaguer who wants to experience the world, as he puts it, “On his own terms” and as a “free spirit.” This past November, the free-spirited Lyon was eligible to vote in a Presidential election for just the second time in his life.

“It’s interesting, psychology and politics — those two things came together in the last election,” Lyon said. “It’s so interesting to see why people are doing what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why they’re voting certain ways. I think that’s what it actually comes down to. There’s such an interesting mindset behind everything that’s going on. It’s just all intertwined for me.”

Questions one day Lyon will attempt to answer, but before he resumes his work of stopping global catastrophe, the Flyers have a much more narrow-minded focus for him: just stopping the puck.

Ron Hextall: Flyers to be 'cautious' with Anthony Stolarz's injury

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Ron Hextall: Flyers to be 'cautious' with Anthony Stolarz's injury

VOORHEES, N.J. — Anthony Stolarz is looking at a lengthy recovery time that will force him to miss the majority of the 2017-18 season after reinjuring the meniscus in his left knee.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall estimated Saturday the recovery period will be "months," not weeks.

"We're going to be cautious with it," Hextall said, "but I know the long-term prognosis for Stolie is good. That's exciting for us. Unfortunately not short-term for him."

Stolarz was given a four-to-six month diagnosis following the initial injury.

Contrary to previous reports, Stolarz had never torn the MCL (medial collateral ligament) in his left knee but rather the meniscus, when he had to be helped off the ice in a game April 12.

A meniscus injury comes with a high risk of reoccurrence, according to Hextall, and Stolarz was not doing anything athletic away from the rink when he felt the second tear.

"He had been doing his rehab," Hextall said. "Coming in every day and things were looking good, and he just moved one way and (his meniscus) re-tore.

Surgeons performed a second procedure Thursday to repair the meniscus again (see story).

A week ago, it appeared Hextall had some organizational depth at the goaltending position, but that took a big hit with the Stolarz news.

The Flyers signed Leland Irving as a backup to Alex Lyon on Aug. 31 before Stolarz's injury, knowing that Stolarz would not be 100 percent by the start of training camp and the regular season.

"It certainly chips away at our depth," Hextall said. "We'll see where Leland Irving is at camp. I'm interested to see kind of where he's at, and we'll just monitor the position over the next couple of months."

No tryouts
Earlier this summer, Hextall said he wanted to bring in a veteran defenseman into training camp on a professional tryout, but as of now, no agreement has been reached.

Rookie camp begins Monday, and the Flyers' main training camp gets underway Friday.

"We had a feeler out there," Hextall said of a PTO, "but it doesn't look like it's going to work out. We'll continue to see what's out there and monitor it.

"If I had to bet right now, I'd say we're probably not going to have a tryout, but that's not 100 percent.

Anthony Stolarz out indefinitely after surgery to repair torn meniscus in left knee

AP Images

Anthony Stolarz out indefinitely after surgery to repair torn meniscus in left knee

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.