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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

Tyler Parsons faced adversity as a first-year pro

In an ideal world, a young goaltender’s transition to the pro ranks would go smoothly. In the real world, that rarely happens. Jon Gillies’ first campaign saw him play just seven American Hockey League games before a recurring hip injury required surgery and Mason McDonald found himself in a season-long battle for an ECHL starting job.

Given those recent examples, it’s probably not shocking that Calgary Flames goaltending prospect Tyler Parsons faced some adversity during his first whirl in pro hockey. In his first full season as a professional, he faced injuries, adjustment challenges, and the difficulties of being yo-yoed between Stockton and Kansas City for much of the season. But based on his demeanor at Flames prospect camp, he hasn’t let it phase him.

Based on the AHL and ECHL websites, Parsons started the year with Kansas City. He was promoted to Stockton roughly four times and demoted back to the Mavericks three times, eventually finishing out the season with Stockton. He had four wins combined from January until the end of the season, a product of some injuries and his bouncing around two levels of hockey.

“It was up and down, had a few injuries and stuff,” reflected Parsons following practice at the Stampede Corral. “It kind of reminded me of my first year in London, it was kind of the same thing. It was a big learning lesson for me, the first year pro, just learning how things work and seeing how all the other guys do it. And honestly just learning, just learning off of everybody else, it was big for me coming into this season.”

For his part, Parsons arrived in Flames camp with an upbeat attitude and some sharp goalie gear – he has black pads with red accents and a new mask painted by longtime collaborator Derrick Gilders. He looks the part of a big-league goalie, and through the first chunk of rookie camp he’s definitely played the part on the ice. He noted that he learned some lessons from his early pro challenges.

“My biggest thing is I was thinking too fast,” said Parsons. “I just needed to settle in and calm down. I think maybe that transition I had, ‘it’s my first year pro, I’ve got to be really fast,’ when really you just have to make a few small adjustments and just play the way you know how to play. That’s what I really focused on, just being patient and holding my feet for longer.”

From the outside looking in, the Flames’ goaltending situation seems fairly set for 2018-19. It’s a given that Mike Smith will be the NHL starter. Most likely one of David Rittich or Gillies will be Smith’s backup, with the other starting most games in Stockton. Parsons seems slated to be the second netminder for the Heat, but given that nothing’s been cemented quite yet he seems rather open-minded about his placement for the coming season.

“You know, I just see it as everything’s up in the air,” said Parsons. “I’m just going to focus on myself and do everything I can out on the ice and do the best I can every single day and compete as hard as I can everyday. I really strongly believe that if you put the work in, good things will happen. I’m just going to keep working hard, just doing whatever I can to get better every day.”

Parsons is entering the second season of an entry-level deal that will expire following the 2019-20 campaign. Like many youngsters, he has NHL dreams and a resume of high achievement at prior levels of hockey, including a Memorial Cup and a World Junior gold medal. But unlike many youngsters, he’s had a season of adversity to remind him of just how challenging it can be to get to the next level. While he’s undoubtedly still driven by a desire to play at the highest level, he’s also aware of the need for patience as he climbs that mountain.

“I’m still 20, I’m turning 21 this month,” said Parsons. “I’m still young. I’ve got a lot of time to develop and I’ve got a lot of things to learn. Goaltending is a tough game, it’s very high pressure and it’s a tough mental game. Just like I said, just working on my game every day, competing and working hard, and good things will happen.”

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    I really like the kid. He showed very well in the first prospect game against the Oilers’ youngsters, and has a good idea what he needs to work on. In today’s salary cap days, a team has to draft and develop their own – especially goaltenders. By the time a goalie hits free agency, or if you make a big splash in a trade, a quality goaltender is going to cost a small fortune.

    Passing on Demko was a big mistake by the looks of it, but that ship has sailed. Parsons needs to get some quality starts down in Stockton. Last year was a mess with him bouncing around the minors – it is time to give the youngster some stability.

    The farm club, on paper at least, looks to be competitive. Playing in front of a decent squad in Stockton should improve Parsons’ game. He’s hardly short on confidence to begin with, but showing that he belongs in the AHL will be another big step forward for him.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I’m hoping and expecting Ritty steals the backup spot in YYC. That leaves Gillies and Parsons down in Cali. I wonder how that will work out? I’m assuming Gillies will get most of the starts, assuming he plays well? Or will they switch them up just to give Parsons some games?

      Alternatively, what if Parsons comes in to the AHL and just plays better than Gillies? What happens then?

      Gillies has the size on him, but from what limited amount of games I’ve seen him play, I almost want to say this season in the A might be a toss up? I’m wildly speculating here, because there are a ton of variables, but yeah. Should be interesting.

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        I dare say the team plan is to have Rittich start in the NHL to back up Smith, and to even out the workload better. Gillies was given a two year deal, the year after this is a one-way, so the team is still invested in him. Gillies doesn’t require waivers this year, so the plan is probably a two-thirds / one thirds split with Parsons in Stockton.

        Eddie Lack was brought in (another one of GG’s former players) as a back-up last year and predictably crashed. There was no way that Treliving was going to have Gillies and Rittich as a back-up with a combined 4 periods of hockey under their collective belts.

        There are a ton of variables, but at least the back-ups have gotten a taste of the NHL. Rittich looked way better than Gillies to these tired eyes. But then Rittich got thrown into a near impossible situation as a full-timer during a brutal part of the schedule when Smith got hurt.

        Giving Parsons a clear development plan is important. There are still a boatload of ways this could all play out, this year and the following years. The Flames are not in the position to just pencil in a starter for years down the road. Hey, I guess that’s what makes the GM Game a challenging occupation.

      • deantheraven

        Hopefully he gets a fair shot in the ‘A’ and proves his mettle. I’m actually more optimistic about him making the jump than Gillies. I watched Gillies during his brief audition last year, and frankly, he scared me more often thank he impressed. A big guy who plays low, gets caught out of position and loses the puck too often. Parsons reminded me of Kipper in that Rookies game. Athletic, sometimes acrobatic, and never gave up on the play.
        Nobody wants to see an injury to Smitty, but if it happens, I hope Tyler gets the chance first and makes the most of it.

        • Mickey O'Reaves

          Gillies looked passable in his last couple of games. But before that, yikes. For a big man, he tried to play as small as he could. He seemed to be off balance a lot of the time, and looked nervous. I don’t think he’s athletic enough to get up quickly to make secondary saves either. As SF says, “High Glove Side” is not exactly a handle you want to pick up as your goalie.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Don’t care for your use of “steals the backup spot.” I’d rather Rittich squarely outplay his competition and win the job outright, so there isn’t any stink of favouritism or suggestions that Gillies got the job because the club has invested far more in him than Rittich.

        I am happy to call Rittich a thief on nights the Flames are outshot 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 and the larcenous netminder single-handedly gets his mates a point or the W, but if he wins the backup job it is because he has earned it.

        • Mickey O'Reaves

          On a side note, Carolina gave up the fewest shots on net of any team last season. They must have had a workable system in place, because that was a very young d-core who could be prone to mistakes.

    • supra steve

      Until Demko does something/anything in the NHL, I’m not going to loose a lot of sleep over that McDonald pick. As I see it, in any given draft year it can just as easily be the consensus #1 netminder that fails while the #2 excels…like in 1990.

        • supra steve

          The Jets went against the consensus when they selected Scheifele, so they are idiots too?
          The Oilers selected consensus pick Yakupov, making them not idiots?
          Consensus does not mean everyone agrees, it just means more scouts liked Demko over McDonald…and apparently some of the scouts that liked McDonald over Demko were Flame scouts. How that reflects on Burke, I have no idea.

  • deantheraven

    He’s the Little Red Engine, and it sounds he’s already at the “I know I can, I know I can” page. If he keeps this up, I can see him passing Gillies on the depth chart.

  • everton fc

    Parsons play the other evening is exactly what this team needs, in a young goalie. He’s hungry, competitive, and seems rather confident. My crystal ball likes Rittich/Parsons or Parsons/Rittich, in 2 years time. Maybe sooner. But I won’t write off Gillies. He’s more confident and together in the head, than he sometimes looks on the ice.

  • Vernon30

    Rittich has confidence. Watching him, you can see it. I’ll be concerned if they make him go back to the A. Hopefully Parsons also has that swagger. Smith has it. Kipper and Vernon had it. I’d like to see Gilles succeed, but for now at least, Rittich looks like the better bet.

  • Joe Flames

    You need to find a better picture of Parsons. In this picture he looks like a little kid wearing his big brother’s equipment!
    Maybe one with his new gear? 🙂