It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
A couple of years ago, Tyler Parsons was the cream of the crop. He was #1 in the FlamesNation prospect rankings. He took a bit of a tumble his first pro season, but still landed at a very respectable 8th last year.
The skid hasn’t stopped. Tyler Parsons comes in at 12th in our 2019 prospect rankings, and the pressing question is this: will he be able to turn it back around or will he be the next in a long line of failed Calgary Flames goalie prospects?
How did we get here?
Parsons has come a long way since his days in Chesterfield, Michigan. He burst onto the scene in the Ontario Hockey League as an undrafted goalie in 2014-15 for the London Knights. Between that point and getting drafted 54th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, he (and the rest of the Knights) won the OHL Championship and the Memorial Cup, with Parsons being named the top goaltender during that time.
As a follow-up, he went out and backstopped Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors. Everything was coming up Milhouse. Then, he turned pro.
His first season was derailed by injuries, and he was never able to get his footing again in the ECHL. He played 28 games for Kansas City, and managed to get into seven games with the Stockton Heat, but the numbers weren’t anything to write home about.
Instead, the major story was after the season. Parsons opened up about his mental health struggles, in an honest and earnest admission about the challenges he was facing. It was a very brave admission and was the kind of story which felt like it could fuel him to a return to his junior greatness.
It was not meant to be. This season was even rockier for him, as he didn’t end up playing enough games to be qualified statistically on the AHL’s goaltending leaderboard.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
On the bright side, Parsons found himself squarely in the American Hockey League, no longer having to endure the conditions of the ECHL.
On the other hand, the numbers were not kind to him.
Parsons played 20 games for the Heat, and came away with a .898 SV%. There are two ways to look at that. The first is that as standalone stats, those aren’t pretty. However, digging deeper, there is reason to not lose faith in Parsons.
The majority of those games came in the 2019 calendar year, because 2018 was the year that was completely swallowed up by injuries. The first 10 games Parsons played last season, he was below .900 SV% half the time.
However, the later games proved more encouraging (as they also did for Gillies, the defenders of the Stockton Heat, and generally the team as a whole). He went above .900 SV% eight of his last 10 games, and looked pretty okay doing so.
All of this is to say that Parsons may be able to get his mojo back, or he may not. There’s no way to tell from his sample size.
Those in the know
An encouraging sign is that the coaching staff down in Stockton believe that Parsons could be ready for a big season. Per head coach Cail MacLean:
He’s very hard-working. He’s got a lot of habits that makes for a good pro hockey player. He has had some bad luck in terms of injuries and missing some time, but at the same time I think he’s carried himself through it very well and though his numbers don’t reflect it, I feel his brand of hockey – what’s he’s done to understand how his game can apply to the pro level, and how he’s worked with Colin Zulianello…to make sure that he evolves his game, and I think he’s done a good job of that – so I think he’s really primed to be in a good position. And I thought that he looked good in development camp, so I have a lot of confidence in Tyler as a person and as a player and a lot of that is in the foundation of his work ethic.
He also mentioned that it’ll be important for Parsons to play consistently, but figuring that out is a part of a larger conversation between Stockton and Flames management after training camp.
On the horizon
Parsons kind of needs a big season to show the Flames there was merit in selecting him 54th back in 2016. Will he be able to do it? The heart wants to say yes, but the brain says “show me first.”
He’s an easy kid to root for, as alluded to by MacLean. It would be great to see him succeed this year. Not only because he’s a Flames prospect, but just because it would be awful to see injuries and personal demons rob such a great junior goaltender of a pro career.
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