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.”