Could Troy Grosenick really be the Flyers’ backup goalie?
The Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves in a slight goaltending pickle heading into the 2022-23 season, at least at their backup position.
After Ivan Fedotov was arrested for reportedly evading his conscription duties and will be serving with the Russian Navy for at least the next year, that saga threw a giant wrench in the Flyers’ plans.
Fedotov was supposed to be the leading candidate to play behind Carter Hart in Philadelphia, coming off a stellar KHL campaign with CSKA Moscow on top of leading the Russian Olympic Committee to a silver medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Now, that scenario is far out the window, and the battle for the backup job will now rest between Felix Sandström and Troy Grosenick.
Sandström suited up in five games for the Flyers last season, going 0-4-1 but posted a 3.23 goals against average and a respectable .910 save percentage. His NHL debut on December 30th, 2021 saw him stop 43 of 46 shots in a 3-2 road overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks, which set a Philadelphia franchise record for most saves made in a team debut and NHL debut by a goaltender. He also played in 44 games with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms last year, going 16-18-5 with a .902 SV%, 2.89 GAA, and 2 shutouts.
Sandström was re-signed to a two-year, $1,550,000 contract back on June 23rd, and was supposed to battle Fedotov for the secondary goaltending role with Philadelphia, but now his adversary in staying with the big club is Troy Grosenick.
Grosenick is probably a relative unknown to the casual Flyers fan, which is understandable. He has only played in four NHL contests and has been a minor-league journeyman for the bulk of his career.
He played college hockey at Union College and was a teammate of former Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere while playing for the Dutchmen. He went undrafted and signed with the San Jose Sharks on April 8th, 2013 after completing his junior year.
Grosenick made his NHL debut with the Sharks on November 26th, 2014, where he made 45 saves and recorded a shutout against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and set an NHL record for most saves in a shutout in a debut in the modern era. In total, he played two games with San Jose in 2014-15 and played in two more games with the Los Angeles Kings during the 2020-21 season, and has recorded a 2-2-0 record, 2.27 GAA, .933 SV%, and 1 shutout in the NHL.
While he hasn’t played much at the sport’s highest level, the 32-year-old Brookfield, Wisconsin native has been a great AHL goaltender and has always been ready for the call to the NHL whenever he’s been needed. Over the course of his career he has made stops with the Worcester Sharks/San Jose Barracuda, Milwaukee Admirals, Ontario Reign, and Providence Bruins, appearing in 288 contests over his career in the AHL and sporting a 149-91-30 record, .914 SV%, 2.50 GAA, and 19 shutouts.
Grosenick was named an AHL All-Star in 2017 with San Jose and led the club to the Western Conference Finals that season, where they bowed out to the eventual Calder Cup champions in the Grand Rapids Griffins in five games. He was later named as an AHL First Team All-Star and won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s top goaltender.
Grosenick has also won the Hap Holmes Memorial Award for having the lowest goals against average (2020, shared with Connor Ingram) and the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award for service to his local community (2020). He was also named as an AHL Second Team All-Star this past season after a stellar year with Providence.
Grosenick has been a fantastic minor league goaltender his entire career, and is coming off a scorching season with the P-Bruins. He racked up a 16-6-4 record and a jaw-dropping 2.00 GAA and .933 SV% in 30 games of action with Boston’s top affiliate. But can that translate to a full slate of games as a backup at the NHL level, or even as a starter should something happen to Carter Hart?
Also given what we saw from Sandström last season in five NHL appearances, which is more games in one season that Grosenick has played in his entire career, it’s not unreasonable to think that the 25-year-old Swede has an easy leg up for the job. But the Flyers’ brass seems to show that the competition could be closer than we think.
Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher said at his press conference after the first day of free agency that he anticipates Grosenick to compete for the backup job with Sandström. “Grosenick and Sandström will compete in camp along with Sam Ersson. In relation to Sam, coming off the injury plagued season that he did, we’re hoping to get him to full health and get him playing, but we’ll have a competition in camp for the backup position.”
Ersson, a 22-year-old Swede who was picked in the fifth round in 2018 by Philadelphia, will likely start the year in Lehigh Valley after suffering a 2021-22 campaign that was marred by groin issues. In regards to who will join him in the AHL, that will be apparently settled in training camp.
It’s hard to believe that an undrafted 32-year-old with four total NHL games under his belt could be the Flyers’ backup goaltender, but crazier things have happened, right? If Troy Grosenick ends up skating out of the tunnel at Wells Fargo Center on opening night, it will be a long awaited but much deserved honor for the veteran.