Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Tyler Parsons is stuck in goalie limbo

If there’s one thing that Calgary Flames fans and brass can agree on, it’s that Tyler Parsons is one heck of a goaltender. The Michigan product has turned a lot of heads over the past couple of seasons, winning basically everything a goalie of his age can help his team win – an OHL Championship, a Memorial Cup and a World Junior gold medal.

Unfortunately, Parsons is in a very interesting position in terms of his development. The Flames are log-jammed with pro-aged goaltenders slated for minor-pro jobs – Jon Gillies, David Rittich, Mason McDonald and Parsons – that it’s unclear where exactly Parsons will play in the fall.

When speaking with media prior to the on-ice portion of development kicking off, the 19-year-old focused on the positive experiences he had last season during his brief stint with the Stockton Heat. He noted that the experience practicing with pro shooters helped him simplify his game and focus on staying on his feet more.

“It was awesome,” said Parsons. “It was a good feel to be up there and meet some of the guys that you haven’t met already and to be on the ice with the coaching staff. Especially during playoffs, everything picks up for playoffs so everyone’s at the top of their playing ability so it was good to be up there and get some reps in and work with the coaches and Zuli [Colin Zulianello] there, the goalie coach. It was good for me.”

Parsons noted that he has family members involved in the United States military and law enforcement – and shared that if hockey hadn’t worked out he probably would’ve been in the armed forces – so it meant a lot for him to be able to win gold at the World Juniors and bring his medal home to share with his family. There was a bit of good-natured tension in the London Knights locker room following Team USA’s win, though.

“Right when I got back we got Mitchell Stephens, he played for the Canadian team,” said Parsons. “He was a little butt-hurt about that, but he got over it. It was pretty funny, one day I brought the gold medal into the locker room and he just started shaking his head. Canada had a great team and it went to a shootout, so both teams played great.”

Unlike fellow Flames prospects (and 2016 draft picks) Matthew Phillips and Dillon Dube, Parsons wasn’t able to play a game for Stockton during his time with the team because they had enough goaltenders. He noted that the experience still helped him develop and that he did have a chance to suit up before the playoffs ended.

“I still had a lot of fun,” said Parsons. “I still got to practice. Practice is sometimes better than the games because you see a lot more shots and you see different scenarios in practice. The one game, the last game, Rittich got hurt in the first period and they called me with 10 minutes to go in the second, ‘Oh, you need to come get dressed.’ I put on my soaking wet gear from the morning skate and put that on and went and sat in the aisleway in San Jose and watched the game on the little TV screen back there.”

Depending on what happens during the rest of the summer, Parsons may not have to wait too much longer to suit up for Stockton for real. Despite the uncertainty about his immediate future, he remains upbeat.

“I don’t know where I’m going to play,” said Parsons. “Whether it’s junior, the east coast or the AHL, you don’t really find that out ’til the middle of main camp, whenever camp starts… It’s got me on my toes a little bit, but it’s part of the process and everyone has to go through that.”

  • JumpJet

    In my mind Parsons has already passed McDonald on the depth chart. He should start the season as #1 in the ECHL and hopefully get some AHL starts when injuries occur. That should give him some stiffer competition than the OHL but still allow him to be a dominant goaltender (hopefully).

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I can see the reasoning but I doubt the Flames would gift a starting spot to a player who has no Pro experience over a player that was a back up for the team in the ECHL year. Parsons will likely be the starter after a few weeks.

  • Jobu

    If he is truly the Flames best goaltending prospect, then we need to ensure that his development takes priority over the other 3. We should ideally be dealing one of these other prospects to recoup a pick or improve our forward depth.

  • Mb.plesa_15

    I think that parsons will on day be an elite goaltender and I would love to see a rittich-parsons goaltending tandem in the future. I don’t really know what they should do with Gillies. Rittich is more of a “know what your gonna get every night” kinda guy. Rittich will kind of be like a backup/starter guy that could be played in either position. On the other hand we have Gillies. He is like a wild card, he may bust or he may be an elite goalie that can really turn heads. I think tre has a very important desicion to make. Personally I would flip Gillies for a couple picks or maybe even a top 6 rw. Honestly I think mason Macdonald will be a career ahl player.

  • prendrefeu

    It’s been said that ‘goalies are voodoo’ and more often than not it tends to hold veracity. Who knows how any goalie will turn out going forward? Parsons has a stellar record, and hopefully it continues, but Gillies was also a highly touted prospect (and, please keep in mind he’s recovering from hip injury & procedure). When Rittich was brought over from Europe most people were thinking “literally who?” and not giving him much of a chance to prove himself. McDonald also was highly touted.

    tldr: Who knows what will happen with a goalie? Just hope that we keep the ones that will help back the Flames to a cup.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    If it is understood that good goalies typically make the jump to the NHL between 22-24 then it is a bit pre-mature to give up on our young goalie prospects like MacDonald and Gillies. A lot of good goalies have gone the ECHL route so it should not hurt Parsons development.

    I can’t see Parsons playing in the AHL this season behind Gillies. They could stay with Gillies and Rittich at a 60-40 split but Rittich may not want that. That leaves Mac as the starter in the ECHL…..on paper only…. Until Parsons takes it away.

  • DKramer

    The is one of those so called “good problems to have”. Parsons, Gillies, Rittich all look like they are a year or 2 away from really forcing their way into the league. They may not all make it but for flames management this must be great. There’s not spots for all of them but they all have value. I don’t think McDonald is quite at that level but I wouldn’t completely write him off yet. He’s still a young kid. I’d give him another pair of years to show his stuff at least. And let’s not forget that the Flames always say they will draft a goalie every other year. Not many picks to get one but who knows.

  • GarryT

    Why we signed the two older goalies is beyond me. There has to be an underlying push by somebody and I think that person is GG. I think he is in over his head and I think he feels the older guys can play and save his a$$.
    Now you have Gillies entering his fourth year as a Flame, Rittich has surprised and that is a good thing. Parsons is going to be ready for the NHL in 2 years at the latest. I concur with some of the posters here. We need to move a goalie and that will be Rittich. The better name to move is Gillies but as said, what if either of Rittich turns into a Gump Worsley or a real hotshot? In my estimation they made a wrong move because either of Rittich or Gillies if not both will put their year in this year and when it come time to sign the following year, they will both say see ya around and get zip for them. Lack is young … With a good defensive system in front of him he is going to win that starting job in short order. It is a mess and we have no 1s or 2s in each of the next 2 years. Wow.

    • Dr.Wahooka

      I down voted this mostly because of this comment, “what if either of Rittich turns into a Gump Worsley or a real hotshot?” I am not sure if you the “or” is comparing or contrasting Gump and a hotshot. If you’re suggesting Gump was a bad goalie his Calder trophy, four Cups and two Vezina trophies might have something to say.

    • Coffee

      Glen Gulutzan is a great choice for this Flames lineup. He’s not inexperienced or over his head at all. The team struggled with the coach changeover but that was natural, Heartley had taught the team to the last ten minutes of the game and not a full 60 min confident and sustainable style. Gulutzan proved himself last season.

  • Puckhead

    I like the sensational headline for the article: Tyler Parsons Stuck in Goalie Limbo

    If he’s as good as he has looked so far he will be putting other goalies in limbo

  • Franko J

    I’m trying to remember at time when this organization has been so flush with potential prospects on the D and in goal. Basically the players will be the ones who ultimately determine their outcome with the club. The only predication I can foresee is that Parsons along with Gillies, Rittich and Macdonald should have a very competitive camp come this fall.

  • L.Kolkind

    This is why we shouldn’t have traded for Lack. We don’t have room for all our prospects to develop now and this will hinder development. Parsons should spend this year in the AHL. Having both Gilles and Rittich ahead of him and both look almost NHL ready, it will be almost impossible to outplay them enough to earn a spot in the AHL.

    If we had one of Rittich/Gilles graduate to the NHL, the better goalie between McDonlad and Parsons would be in the AHL while the other gets to start in the ECHL. We now have a situation where Parsons could spend a very valuable development year as an ECHL backup. I don’t understand trading for a horrible goalie in the first place especially when we have 2 better goalies (Gilles/Rittich) and no room for another goalie. Rittich also is 25 going on 26 so he isn’t young. He was among the top 3 goalies in the AHL last year and should at least have a chance to prove he can handle the next level.

    I really like Parsons and don’t think being in the ECHL as either a starter or backup would be best for his development. He has the skill to play in the AHL and the only reason he might not is because we have too many goalies.

    • Baalzamon

      We now have a situation where Parsons could spend a very valuable development year as an ECHL backup.

      0 chance of that. For that to happen he’d have to be worse than McDonald, in which case you shouldn’t be complaining because it would mean he’s not good enough to play in the AHL anyway.

      IMO there’s NO chance Parsons is behind McDonald on the depth chart in anyone’s estimation. He’ll be the starter in the ECHL, at minimum (and he could still beat one of the incumbants for an AHL job as well, FYI. Rittich could be loaned to another AHL team, for example, like McCollum was last season).

      Important to remember, as well, that both Rittich and Gillies are currently without contracts.

      • Baalzamon

        Besides which, I have a hard time believing that being the backup for an AHL team would be more developmentally beneficial for a goalie coming out of junior than being a starter for an ECHL team.

      • OKG

        Rittich who is better than Gillies is not getting loaned to another AHL team.

        The likely outcome, is McDonald gets loaned to another team’s ECHL team, as Ken Appleby was loaned to us.

        • Thunder1

          Jon Gilles is a 2 metre tall goalie with an impeccable pedigree… he just turned 23 for crying out loud. You babbled the same crap when Monahan had a slow start… what you know about player development couldn’t fill up a thimble OKG.

        • L.Kolkind

          So now our best case scenario is basically giving up on McDonald? I know he had an off year, but he was still the 2nd ranked goalie in his draft year for a reason. He does play a very sound game, his technique is good and he has a really big frame. The other option is having him and Parsons tandem in the ECHL. I think we all agree that Parsons shows far more potential, but giving up on McDonald this early doesn’t seem reasonable.

          I think the increase of skill and getting to practice at a higher level even as a backup as a huge boost to development. He learns the pro game playing with pros, practising with pros and most importantly getting shot at by pros. There is big enough gap between ECHL and AHL that I think getting used to the higher level shots for a full season would be more beneficial. In Sweden and Finland great prospects play with pros, but with limited ice time and it doesn’t seem to have hurt any of their development.

          I hope the spot for the NHL backup is a legitimate tryout between Lack, Gilles and Rittich. If Lack gets outplayed we can put him the AHL, and bury half his cap hit.