Betting on Himself, Alex Lyon Realistic in Chances of Making Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Alex Lyon is betting on himself even though the numbers are stacked against him.

When the Yale product signed a two-year contract with the Flyers in April, it instantly became a one-year deal because the team had to burn a year to land his services.

So the goaltender came to the team's development camp last week at Flyers Skate Zone having one season to prove himself capable of earning another contract with the orange and black, and he'll come back in September for training camp aiming to steal an NHL job.

A job that, at least on paper, seems unattainable, but that's exactly how Lyon wants to play his hand.

"I'm betting on myself to prove my worth within the organization," he said. "And that honestly, it's somewhat consoling for me because I feel like I have the ability to play professional hockey at a high level, whether it's at Lehigh Valley, whether it's in Philadelphia, whether it's somewhere else."

With Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth owning a stranglehold on both goalie spots on the NHL roster, Lyon's chances of being a Flyer come October are slim to none. He would have to significantly outperform Mason or Neuvirth, both proven goalies, or an injury would have to occur. Still, Lyon's mindset isn't one in which he's reaching for the stars.

"I think, given the situation here, I'm being very realistic," the 23-year-old said. "I understand that they have two exceptional goalies in Neuvirth and Mason, and even Anthony Stolarz is a high-quality goalie, no question about that. But I think any player would be remiss if they didn't go into training camp and try to make the Flyers.

"Whether it's the Flyers or any other NHL team, I feel you have to go in with that kind of mindset, and like I said, I just want to be the best player I can during training camp and the rest of the summer and then if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out."

At the very least, a strong training camp can elevate him past Stolarz on the team's organizational goalie depth chart, if he's not already. Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick, put together a strong second campaign last season with the Phantoms, and even earned himself a few call-ups to serve as a backup when injuries hit the Flyers' crease.

Stolarz figures to be the starting netminder for the Phantoms this season, though Lyon may push him for that role if he starts the season in Lehigh Valley, the probable scenario.

Lyon appears to be a player the Flyers are high on. General manager Ron Hextall said April 7 he didn't particularly want to burn the first year of Lyon's contract, but he was willing to compromise to acquire the highly sought after college free agent.

At the final day of development camp Monday, Hextall said he's been honest with Lyon about what the Flyers' plans are for the goalie, which for Lyon, is helpful in his development.

"We're not going to promise things that we can't deliver," Hextall said. "What we will promise is to put you in an environment that's conducive to being a pro hockey player. We'll teach you as much as we can. Alex has spent a lot of time with Kim [Dillabaugh] and Brady [Robinson]. He's a very mature individual.

"He understands the game, he understands the need to get better. He understands the process. He's an impressive young kid, he really is. Again, his understanding of the game, he's very polished. We expect big things from him."

Despite Lyon being with the club for the final four regular-season games as well as the playoffs, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said he has to be careful talking about him, citing that he hasn't been around him a whole lot. But one thing that has stood out to the second-year head coach during development camp is Lyon's smarts.

"He's an intelligent young man, number one," Hakstol said. "By what I see in here from him and of him on the ice, his hockey IQ is high. He seems to pick things up quickly and apply them to his performance. Then again, this is a skills camp and a development camp that's going on, the level that you have to be able to read plays at, how hectic the game is at live pace is much different, but I have just been impressed of his presence as a player on the ice."

Lyon comes from a winning program at Yale, which has won the Ivy League the last two seasons. He forwent his senior season with the Bulldogs to make the jump to professional hockey, finishing his collegiate career with 50 wins, 15 shutouts, a 1.88 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, all school records.

In his final season at Yale, Lyon led the country with a 1.64 goals-against average and was tied for second with a .936 save percentage behind Army's Parker Gahagen's .937.

When he was making his decision to make the leap to pro hockey, he reportedly had at least 12 teams interested. So what made the Flyers attractive to him?

"The first thing that I went through when looking at the different teams was just quality of the organization," Lyon said. "That was my No. 1 priority, and I felt that between Mr. Hextall and the entire front office, it's a first-rate operation here, and they've been nothing but respectful and honest with me, and that's all I can ask for."

Lyon said development camp was a learning experience that helped him adapt to the pace of professional hockey, albeit in a small sample size. The speed of the game from the college level to even the AHL is much faster, so the drills at camp helped him with going at a higher pace, he said.

While the Flyers do not decide roster spots or make meaningful evaluations during development camp, there was one noticeable obstacle standing in Lyon's way: the number of goalies. In the last two years, the Flyers have drafted four goalies. At D-camp, there were six goaltenders. That's not including Mason, Neuvirth and Stolarz.

For Lyon, he understands there would have been obstacles standing in his way no matter which team he had signed with. That's something he said he's learned with age.

"For me, the best way to handle it is, I try not to think about it," Lyon said. "If I can be the best player and person I can be, then the other things will take care of themself. I like to let the chips fall where they may."

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