In the spring of 2016, Tyler Parsons backstopped the London Knights to an Ontario Hockey League championship. A few weeks later, he helped them capture a Memorial Cup. A month later, he was selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames. About six months later, he was a big part of the United States beating Canada in a World Junior thriller to capture a gold medal.
For all of these reasons, and more, the ultra-competitive American netminder has risen on our prospect rankings from seventh last year to first this year. Most impressively, he was the top prospect on all seven ballots our panel submitted. He’s the most exciting Flames netminding prospect in well over a decade, and in some circles is talked about as the top goaltending prospect in the entire NHL ecosystem.
A brief history
A native of the Detroit area, Parsons came up through the local Little Caesars program before signing with the nearby London Knights as a free agent. He entered the Ontario Hockey League as a rookie in 2014-15 and served as backup to London starter Michael Giugovaz. He had better numbers than his more experienced teammate and ended up taking over the net by the playoffs. (Giugovaz spent the next season split between Windsor and Guelph.)
Parsons began the 2015-16 season, his draft year, as London’s undisputed starter. The Knights eventually brought in overager Brendan Burke, formerly of the Calgary Hitmen, to be his caddy. London was a murderer’s row of good junior players and arguably one of the most terrifying junior clubs in recent Canadian history.
That said, Parsons was very sharp when called upon and the Knights had the lowest team goals against average in the OHL. The Knights won the OHL Championship and the Memorial Cup, with Parsons named the tournament’s top goaltender. In the 2016 NHL Draft, roughly a month later, he was the second goaltender taken – just six picks after Philadelphia took Carter Hart.
He was a bit less of a focal point for the Knights in 2016-17, in part due to a combination of some minor injuries and a trip to the World Juniors limiting him to just 34 appearances – one more than he saw as a backup as a rookie. But when he was in net, he was one of the best in the OHL.
His second half was superb, beginning with a World Junior gold medal win (in a tense shootout thriller against Canada), then a strong finish to the OHL regular season and two playoff series that went the distance. After London was eliminated from the playoffs, he joined the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat for their playoff run. He didn’t dress in any games, but he got a taste of the pace in practice.
When we cast our net to our friends, we found no shortage of opinions on the Flames’ top prospect.
Brock Otten of the OHL Prospects blog had a lot of praise for Parsons.
Parsons had another tremendous season, coming off a Memorial Cup victory in 2016. And while the Knights came up short in terms of repeating as champions, they still had a solid season, backstopped by the confident and athletic Parsons. This kid is just a winner, as evidenced by his performance in this year’s World Juniors (where he won gold). About as consistent a goaltender as you can find in the OHL. Even though London lost in the playoffs this year, Parsons could not be blamed.
His athleticism in the crease remains his greatest asset. Moves so well and has tremendous recovery ability. That said, he’s using that less and less as he’s learned to refine his approach to become less of a scrambler and more sound positionally. In particular, I think his rebound control looked much better this year. He’ll turn pro next year, where I would expect great results regardless of whether he’s in the AHL, or has to start in the ECHL. Best goaltending prospect in the OHL in my opinion.
Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine gave us his take on Parsons as well.
It’s next to impossible to find a goaltender whose stock has risen as much as Parsons’ in the last two seasons. He’s been nothing short of exceptional with the London Knights, and has a World Junior gold medal to boot. All signs point to him turning into a dependable starting goaltender in the NHL at some point – but it isn’t a slam dunk.
He’s had great success at the junior level with his aggressive style, but that may need to change as he turns pro. Some aggressive goaltenders tend to push the gas pedal harder once they run into challenges at a higher level, which is the worst thing you could do. All signs indicate that Parsons has the hockey IQ make the proper adjustment, and his puck-tracking should be good enough to get him through early on.
Mark Scheig of The Hockey Writers saw Parsons face off against the Erie Otters a lot over the past three seasons, culminating in Parsons nearly stealing their seven-game playoff series this past spring. He thinks that Parsons is ready for the next level.
He’s ready for the next part of his development. He has nothing else to prove in juniors and is just a year or two away from claiming the Flames’ net. His poise and comfort on the big stage will help him gain early success when his time comes.
What comes next?
Parsons turns 20 in December and he signed his entry-level contract last season, so under the terms of the CBA, his contract will start running this season no matter where he ends up. Based on comments from Flames management, he won’t be returning to the OHL and will be finding a home – somewhere – in the minor-pro system. Given that the goal is probably to get him a ton of playing time, I’d expect him to be on the move a bit between Stockton and Kansas City in an effort to get him as many starts as possible this season.
|#20 – Ryan Lomberg||#19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson|
|#18 – Daniel Pribyl||#17 – Eetu Tuulola|
|#16 – Adam Ruzicka||#15 – Emile Poirier|
|#14 – David Rittich||#13 – Hunter Shinkaruk|
|#12 – Matthew Phillips||#11 – Jon Gillies|
|#10 – Morgan Klimchuk||#9 – Andrew Mangiapane|
|#8 – Dillon Dube||#7 – Spencer Foo|
|#6 – Mark Jankowski||#5 – Oliver Kylington|
|#4 – Adam Fox||#3 – Juuso Valimaki|
|#2 – Rasmus Andersson|