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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects: #1 Tyler Parsons

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.

Quotable

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.

Previously

#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

  • OKG

    Heckuva a prospect. I have him at #2 behind #1 Jankowski and just ahead of #3 Kylington. Which is rare as I usually err on the side of caution with goaltwnders… Parsons is that good. Excited to see what Colin Zulianello can do for him.

  • Atomic Clown

    “London was a murderer’s row of good junior players and arguably one of the most terrifying junior clubs in recent Canadian history.” I feel like that’s an understatement. That team was in a word, unstoppable.
    More importantly, I knew how good Parson’s was, and so did the flames. What I didn’t know was how highly he was regarded by the rest of the NHL and hockey reporters.
    Last point, and I know im kicking the proverbial dead horse, but what do we do with our logjam of decent goalie prospects? We need them all to progress, but at the same time, you don’t want to take minutes away from someone who deserves/needs them. And once they progress, we need to ship one out by the trade deadline.

    • OKG

      start parsons in ECHL. If Gillies posts a sub-.915 and Rittich posts a .920+ then loan Gillies to another AHL team in need of a goalie. Promote Parsons. Then promote Rittich to the NHL. Then roll Parsons-Gillies next year.

  • Day1-Cfan

    Now is the time for Gilles/Rittich to show what they have. Parsons is knocking on the door. Hoping that we get great season out of all of them. Then we can use the trade deadline to get us some help heading into the playoffs.

  • OYYC

    This might work: Start Parsons in Kansas City. Gillies and Rittich (G & R) split time in Stockton. By about the end of January, Gillies or Rittich (my guess is Rittich) graduates to Calgary, and Lack becomes the backup to the backup. Parsons moves to The AHL and splits time with the remaining goalie in Stockton.

    Treliving has to feel confident enough that either Gillies or Rittich can act as a backup to Smith in the 2018-19 season. G & R don’t have to clear waivers, so there should be a lot of bouncing around. Any injuries to Smith or Lack this year will add layers to the puzzle. Gillies and Rittich each also need to get in a few games with the Flames to showcase them if a trade is in the works.

    As outlined it will end up in a 3 way goalie scenario in Calgary, buy it is hardly a 3-headed monster as Smith is the undeniable starter, and waivers are not a concern. The development of Parsons is now the top priority – but you don’t want to get into a situation where Rittich walks next year and heads back to Europe.

    The goalie puzzle is an interesting one for the next few years, but I’m confident Treliving and the gang will figure out the best solution.

  • Cheeky

    I’m not holding my breath but we may have something in this kid. After so many disappointments at goalie over the last few years, we may be close to our “next” goalie for a long term. Interesting to see which one of Gillies or Rittich steps up this year to force Flames hand (hopefully both). 👍

  • Just.Visiting

    I think he will adapt to the pros faster than may be anticipated. He’s obviously very talented, but the intangibles of being extremely competitive and knowing how to win in very high pressure situations should see him become a star in the absence of major injuries.

    Another great pick!

  • Baalzamon

    …and in some circles is talked about as the top goaltending prospect in the entire NHL ecosystem.

    Ah well let’s not get carried away here. I think Ilya Samsonov still holds that particular crown (.936 sv% in the KHL last year). Actually there’s a few Russians putting up stellar results, and if you still consider Jusse Saros a prospect he has to be in that conversation too.

    Still, Parsons is great and I’m glad the Flames drafted him.

  • The Fall

    Memorial cup, gold metal …but “Most impressively, he was the top prospect on all seven ballots our panel submitted” hahhahahhahahahahhhhhaahbahababahahahaahahahha. Good one.

    • Intercourse the Penguins

      I am not laffing at Parsons record and I do not know why it deserves ridicule. I appreciate most of your comments but do not get this one.

  • L.Kolkind

    I do really like Parsons as a prospect, I do feel that Gilles was underrated in these rankings. Parsons will likely have to go through the same hip surgery Gilles within a couple of years. I think Gilles having one down year just after major hip surgery is fine especially when you look at his record in the NCAA. He posted .930 + sv% every single season. That is incredible! I do believe Gilles should be given the benefit of the doubt on making a very succesful comeback this year. I still have Gilles ahead of Parsons in my personal rankings. Gilles has a massive 6″6′ frame and knows how to use it exceptionally well. I think Parsons also has the benifit of being the new draft pick, which seems to bump up prospect rankings (Dube).

    After saying that my personal rankings are as follows
    20. Eetu Tuulola
    19. Adam Olas Mattson
    18. Ryan Lomberg
    17. Adam Ruzicka
    16. Daniel Pribyl
    15. Hunter Shinkaruk
    14. Dillon Dube
    13. Emile Poirier
    12. Matthew Phillips
    11. David Rittich
    10. Spencer Foo
    9. Morgan Klimchuck
    8. Andrew Mangiapane
    7. Mark Jankowski
    6. Oliver Kylington (My personal favourite prospect, which made him hard to rank as I didn’t want to overvalue him.)
    5. Rasmus Andersson
    4. Juuso Valimaki
    3. Tyler Parsons
    2. Adam Fox
    1. Jon Gilles

    Feel free to disagree, but this is my personal prospect rankings, and given that it is prospect rankings there will always be some disagreement. Other than that thanks Flamesnation for keeping August entertaining and providing some insight into our top prospects.

    • supra steve

      Gillies could have a huge bounce back year and turn out to be the best of the bunch, but his play last year does not justify his being placed as the #1 prospect at this time.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Using your logic, I am curious to know why you would rank Janko 7th. He played in a very defensive Providence system which impacted his offensive numbers, the same way it inflated Gillies numbers. Of interest, Gillies back-up Nick Ellis posted a .936 average in his last year after Gillies left. Gillies best average was .931 in his three years but he did win a championship.

      Janko is considered above average in most categories on a 6’4 “Joel Otto potential” size frame. Other teams would be salivating at this type of prospect especially after a dominant Rookie AHL season. Very few players on this list can boast this consistent improvement year over year.

      • L.Kolkind

        Janko is the top rated forward, but I believe his ceiling isn’t as high as any of the defence or goalies above him. He is also quite a bit older than other prospects so he should be relied upon to be the best AHL forward.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    I might be stating the obvious here, but having the Memorial Cup in our back yard (Red Deer) allowed us to bring more scouts and higher profile decision makers to view Parsons and Tkachuk.

    There were 2 common misconceptions about the talented London Knights: First, Tkachuk’s numbers were inflated playing with Marner and Dvorak and was nothing more than a complementary player. Second, The high octane Knights didn’t need better than average goal keeping to win the Cup….so Parsons was a non factor.

    The added exposure of these players helped debunk these myths and helped the decision makers formulate a consensus decision.

  • freethe flames

    The Flames prospects: exceptional depth on D, 3 quality prospects in net and a mixed bag upfront. 2 on this list are likely NHL ready(Janko/Andersson), 3-6 are high end prospects (Parsons/Valimaki/Fox/Kylington/Mangiapani/Gilles) the rest are an interesting collection: 3 former first rounders from the same draft who don’t seem to be close, some guys with higher end talent but question marks(size/injuries/late bloomers) and some long shots. I like our group but we do need some of the long shots especially at forward to push the pile.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree but I am wondering why Ras would be ready to make the jump but not Mangi. They both had good seasons and Defenders are supposed to develop later. Mangi could be closer than most people realize. There should be some consideration for Poirier as a high end prospect as well.

      • freethe flames

        I agree with you about Magpie; he really intrigues me. He and Janko had very chemistry for much of the year. They very easily could be the 4th duo as early as next year. (Lots for both to prove) But I think we could roll 4 productive lines with the Johnny/Monny/???, ???/Backs/Frolik, Tkachuk/Bennett/??? and Magpie/Janko/???. Fill in the blanks with Ferland, Lazar, Klimchuk, Versteeg, Shinkaruk, Foo, or Poirier all guys who have had a reputation of being players. (I intentionally left of the younger forwards not because I don’t think they will be good but just not as ready). If you want more grit then maybe Hathaway or Lomberg beats out a skilled guy. What I want to see is the first group be given a chance to play with better players. Nothing frustrates me more is seeing a young skilled guy brought up and being saddled with FHamilton, Stajan, used to be Bouma and now Brouwer and then wonder why they don’t produce; and then we complain about them not being good enough or ready. If they fail then we know. See my proposed line up.

        • freethe flames

          Klimchuk had a much better second year and like Janko has a pretty solid 200 ft game and I could see him being a sound NHler and I could see him being a LW with Backs line.

  • freethe flames

    I would love to see the Flames put a line up like the following together for one of the exhibitions games: Johnny/Monny/Ferland, either (Shinkaruk/Klimchuk)/Backs/Frolik, Tkachuk/Bennett/Poirier, Mangiapane(magpie)/Janko/Foo with Gio/Dougie,Ras/TJ, Hamonic/Valimaki and Parsons and Gilles between the pipes. I don’t know if there is enough NHL vets in this lineup but I would love to see something like this. I hope we see a lot Shinkaruk/Klimchuk/Poirier/Mangiapane/Foo in this preseason and less of TB and Stajan.

    • Intercourse the Penguins

      Why do we have a farm team in California? I live in Ogden. I cannot afford many big league tickets. Toronto marlies play in TO .I would kill to see our future team play and have a real idea of where we stand. I am sure people like the hitmen but I do not give a squirt. Let the Calgary Heaters play in the Corral and we will fill it.