If there are any players the Flames should be interested in, it’s definitely goalies. So to hear that they’re seeking the services of Alex Lyon – the highly sought-after junior Yale goalie who is foregoing his senior year – is of no surprise.
If they can get him will be another story. But for an organization that’s awfully low on goaltending options, Lyon could be a really great get.
CGY trying hard to sign FA Yale goalie Alex Lyon. They’re not alone, but haven’t been told they’re out of the running.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 1, 2016
Who is Alex Lyon?
Lyon is an undrafted 23-year-old 6’1, 200 lb. goalie from Minnesota. Coming up through the USHL, where he posted decent enough save percentages, he committed to Yale in the NCAA (Kenny Agostino’s old stomping grounds! Lyon was a freshman when Agostino was a senior) – and from there, he’s risen.
As a freshman, Lyon played 30 games for the Yale Bulldogs, posting a .918 save percentage. As a sophomore, he went up to 32 games, and leaped all the way to a .939 save percentage. Now most recently, as a junior, he played 31 games, and maintained his impressive performance, posting a .936 save percentage. That’s the second best save percentage in the NCAA this season, just one point behind Parker Gahagen, and tied with Nick Ellis – Jon Gillies’ replacement in Providence – and Thatcher Demko.
Lyon has, unquestionably, been one of the best goalies in the NCAA this season.
He could keep going back to school. But instead, he’s decided to go pro – and in the process, has become very much sought after by NHL teams.
At least a dozen, as the New Haven Register reports in the above link. He’s attended camps with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks in the past, but never signed a deal, even though the Hawks offered him one before this season.
The Leafs, meanwhile, have signed another college free agent goalie, Minnesota-Duluth’s Kasimir Kaskisuo. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re out of the running, though – and even then, there are still another 10 or so teams the Flames have to contend with for Lyon’s services.
Where would he fit in?
Question is whether Lyon sees Jon Gillies and Mason McDonald already in the CGY system blocking his way.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 1, 2016
Goaltending is a really tricky position, in part because there are so few slots available on a roster. In typical cases, you have two, and that’s it. That doesn’t leave much room: two in the NHL, two in the AHL, two in the ECHL, and whoever else stashed away in juniors or Europe.
And even then, time may not be evenly split; even if the Flames don’t get Lyon, it’s entirely possible we see Mason McDonald, who will be eligible to turn professional next season, playing in the ECHL just so he can get some starts while Gillies, presumably, gets the bulk of the workload in Stockton.
Unless Lyon disrupts those plans, one way or another. Because the Flames are a team that have next to nothing going for them in goaltending, and nobody signed at the NHL level.
That could be an enticing factor to draw Lyon in – there could be an NHL spot available for him – but it would also be an incredibly risky one. It’s rare to see college goalies make the jump right into the NHL.
Matt O’Connor, for example, was courted by a handful of NHL teams just last season, and the then-junior, who posted a .927 save percentage for Boston University, ultimately went to Ottawa. There, through 30 games this season, he has a .890 save percentage in the AHL.
Or take the Bruins’ Zane McIntyre, who left North Dakota after his .929 save percentage junior season last year. This season, he’s posted a .894 save percentage through 27 AHL games.
And it’s not likely Gillies can make the jump to the NHL next season, either. His first professional season was essentially wiped out due to hip surgery. He’s still, for all intents and purposes, a rookie: and he’ll be one who hasn’t played in nearly a year by the time he returns to a game setting. He’ll need that AHL time.
The Flames have goaltending spots open at the NHL level, but that’s not quite the case in the minors. So while they should be in on Lyon, and there very well could be opportunity here, whether he sees Calgary as his best option with a dozen other teams courting him is up in the air.