Way, way back in 2016, the Calgary Flames used an early draft selection on an exciting young goaltender with a great resume. Four years later, they’re still waiting with cautious optimism for that goaltender to put together an injury-free pro season.
The 20th-ranked prospect in the Flames systems is American-born goaltender Tyler Parsons.
How did we get here?
A product of Michigan’s minor hockey programs, Parsons grinded his way to Canadian major junior. He caught on with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and quickly became one of the top netminders in the circuit.
He was the third ranked North American goalie by Central Scouting in the 2016 NHL Draft and was selected by the Flames in the second round, 54th overall. He was selected with the pick the Flames got from Florida for Jiri Hudler, and two picks before the Flames grabbed Dillon Dube.
Since being drafted, Parsons has slid down our annual rankings. In 2017 he was first. In 2018 he was eighth. Last year he slid to 12th. This time around, he’s clinging onto the 20th spot on the list. The challenge with Parsons is it’s nothing that he’s done, but merely what he hasn’t: he hasn’t put up a complete pro season yet due to lingering injury challenges and bad luck.
In his final junior season, the Knights carried three goalies for most of the season – Parsons, Tyler Johnson and Jordan Kooy – in an effort to keep Parsons healthy and fresh given he was their best bet for a long playoff run. (He missed time with injury early in the season.)
In 2017-18, he missed 20 games with recurring injuries and bounced between sick bay, the AHL and the ECHL. In the interim, the Stockton Heat rolled with Jon Gillies and David Rittich, then Eddie Lack, then Parsons before a late season injury. It’s unclear if all of his injury issues were concussion-related, but some of them were. (Parsons spoke with The Athletic’s Scott Cruickshank about his road back from concussions and the mental health aspect of his recovery.)
In 2018-19, Parsons spent the entire season in the AHL, when he was healthy. He only played six games in the 2018 portion of the calendar, but once he got his legs under him he was a reliable backup to Gillies. His 2019-20 season got off to a rough start as he suffered an injury in camp and didn’t dress for Kansas City until Nov. 22. Kansas City carried three goalies all season – Parsons, Nick Schneider and Hayden Hawkey – in an effort to keep Parsons fresh and rested.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
Parsons played 25 games in 2019-20 for the Mavericks, going 11-9-2 with a 3.03 goals against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout. He was 17th in GAA and 11th in SV% among regular ECHL goalies.
During his entry level years, Parsons played 27 AHL games and went 10-12-1 with a 3.85 GAA and .890 SV%. In 53 ECHL games, he was 23-21-4 with two shutouts, a 3.10 GAA and .907 SV%. But it’s hard to really put much stock into his numbers because he had enough bad injury luck that he didn’t really ever get to put together a full season.
Those in the know
Mavericks assistant coach Kohl Schultz served as acting coach for much of the 2019-20 season and was kind enough to share his thoughts on Parsons’ progress last season.
“It was probably a tough situation for him,” said Schultz of Parsons starting the campaign in the ECHL. “It’s hard having the success that he had the year before, staying up in the American Hockey League the entire year and then getting hurt and unfortunately after getting hurt you have to try to rehab your injury and get back to game shape. When Stockton’s got two guys that are really going, it’s one of those situations where it’s hard to get back up. But he was a consummate professional for us, he worked incredibly hard every day. He’s a good teammate and the boys rewarded him with the team-voted MVP award.”
In terms of what Parsons needs to work on, Schultz made one recommendation while praising the netminder’s ability not to let games get away from him on nights where he wasn’t fully feeling it.
“I think just consistency is probably the biggest thing,” said Schultz. “You know, there’s no denying Tyler’s ceiling. He’s incredibly athletic, he’s gifted, he’s fast, his reflexes are uncanny. But you know, there’s times where maybe the night wasn’t his and what I think he did a really good job at was on those nights that wasn’t his in terms of everything’s flowing and he’s feeling it, he really found ways to compartmentalize those things and then in turn made sure that he had a successful outing and gave us an opportunity for a win.”
On the horizon
Man, wouldn’t it be awesome if Parsons could get a full, injury-free season to show what he can do on a consistent basis? Unfortunately, the 2020-21 season will be delayed by COVID-19 and it’s not clear when everything will get going.
Right now, the suspicion is that (a) the Heat will be carrying three goalies in Louis Domingue, Artyom Zagidulin and Parsons and (b) they’ll be playing a compressed schedule. It’s probably not the ideal environment for Parsons to have a statement season, but it’s the situation he’s been given and he’ll have to make the most of it.
Four seasons after being drafted, Parsons hasn’t yet lived up to the promise he showed in 2016. He’s not incredibly young anymore, but he’s still got some runway remaining to (re-)establish himself as a high-end goaltending prospect.
FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020
|The no-votes||Missed the cut|