Comparing Sam Ersson’s Rookie Campaign to Other Flyers Legends

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Let’s face it: at the start of this season, no one would have thought that the Philadelphia Flyers would be in a situation where they would lose Carter Hart to legal issues and be forced to depend on their 24-year-old rookie goalie, Samuel Ersson, as their starter.

But to our surprise, it has not been as bad as we had essentially thought. And here’s why. Before coming to North America to play for the Flyers organization, Sam had already spent parts of three seasons playing professional hockey for the Brynas IF in the SHL back home in Sweden.

This, of course, paired with a full season playing in the American Hockey League for the Phantoms last year (that included some post-season hockey), made his transition to the NHL this season seem almost flawless.

So let us compare his impressive rookie campaign thus far with a few other Flyers legends of the blue paint.

Sam Ersson

Ersson was drafted by the Flyers in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft with the 143rd overall pick. Last season, he was called up from the Phantoms for a total of 12 games, and he was able to win six of those for a .500 win percentage. He did this while posting a 3.07 goals-against-average (G.A.A.) and a .899 save percentage (SV%).

But in this his first full year of competition in the NHL, Ersson has been able to play in 33 games thus far, where he has managed to compile 17 wins, three of which came by way of a shutout. So if you do the math, that means that Sam has won .515% of his game this year and has managed to maintain a 2.55 G.A.A and a .901 SV%.

With those stats in mind, compared to the rest of the league’s rookie netminders, Ersson has played the most games and recorded the most wins. The only first-year netminder that even comes close is Carolina’s Pyotr Kochetkov, who has played in 31 games and won 16 of his starts. The two are tied in shutouts with three and share very similar numbers in both goals-against-average and save percentage. If these two keep it up, they should find themselves in contention for the league’s Calder Trophy but will likely lose out to either Connor Bedard or Marco Rossi.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Now, Philadelphia may not have drafted Bob, but they did sign him as a 22-year-old free agent after his deal in Russia was complete. Sergei came to the Flyers in the 2010-2011 season, where he played an incredible 54 games as a rookie and was able to win 28 of them. That equates to him winning .518 percent of his starts that first year with the orange and black. In that rookie campaign with the Flyers, Bobrovsky was able to post a solid 2.59 G.A.A and a .915 SV%.

Sergei, who is still playing at age 35, now has 389 career wins and two Vezina Trophies to his credit, which will go down as one of the Flyer’s biggest blunders. Mostly, because Bob only got to play with the team for two seasons before being shipped out to Columbus for a 2nd round pick and two 4th round picks. The reason for this decision came because Bobrovsky became frustrated with the fact that Philadelphia signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year $51 million deal. It was a mistake that the team is literally still paying for, seeing they agreed to buy out Bryzgalov and were made to pay him $1,642,857 for 14 years. A payment that the Flyers will still be made to shell out until the 26-27 season.

Ron Hextall

Who could forget the hot-tempered rookie goalie named Ron Hextall, who, in his first year of competition with the Flyers in the 1986-1987 season, was able to come in and take the team all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they ended up losing to Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers.

Ron was taken by the Flyers back in the 6th round of the 1982 entry draft with the 119th overall pick. He made his debut with the team at just 22 years of age and played in an impressive 66 regular season games that season in which he was able to record 37 wins. If you’re keeping track at home, that means Ron averaged a W .560% of the time he skated onto the ice. To his credit, Hextall was able to post a 3.01 G.A.A., which he paired with a .902 SV%.

As previously stated, he took the Flyers to the playoffs that year, where he won 15 of 26 games played. Two of which were by way of shutouts. For his efforts that season, he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as well as the Vezina Trophy.

Ron went on to play a 13-year NHL career, where he totaled 296 career wins. Although he was never able to reach the level of success again that he achieved in that first year with the Flyers, he will always be remembered as the guy who took one of the best teams ever assembled (the Oilers) that included Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Esa Tikkanen, Andy Moog, and Grant Fuhr to seven games in 1987.

Pelle Lindbergh

The last great Flyers netminder whose numbers we will throw up here as a comparison is a fellow Swedish netminder who went by the name Pelle Lindbergh. Now Pelle was a bit of a pioneer, seeing that he was the first European-born goaltender to be drafted to the NHL. He, of course, was taken by Philadelphia, who selected him 35th overall way back in the second round of the 1979 NHL Draft. Of course, at the time, this was viewed as quite a risk, but with the type of accolades this young goalie brought to the table, the Flyers saw it as a risk they were willing to take. And my, did it ever pay off. The 1981-1982 season is when Pelle made his NHL debut, but it was only for a couple of games. It wasn’t until the following year, during the 82-83 campaign, that the team really got to see what they were getting with him. Through a span of 40 games played that year, Pelle, who only stood at 5’9, was able to rack up 23 wins (a .575 win percentage, mind you). He did so while accumulating three shutouts and maintaining a 2.99 G.A.A. and a .890SV%.

Lindbergh later went on to win the Vezina for Flyers during the 1984-1985 season, where he was able to total 40 wins. But Pelle was tragically taken from us after playing in parts of just five seasons because he was involved in an automobile accident back on November 10th, 1985, that left him brain-dead.

Lindbergh had all the intangibles to finish as one of the best Flyers’ goalies of all time. I don’t even want to think how many championships this team could have won with him in net. It’s just a shame that this talented young player’s life was cut so short.

Now, I’m not trying to put any pressure on the kid because if he wants to make it to the realm of these greats, he certainly still has a ways to go to fill their skates. It is still early, and although Ersson looks excellent, a lot of pressure has been put on him to be the main man between the pipes. So if the Flyers don’t want Sam to end up being labeled as just another promising prospect in net that fizzled out, I suggest they stop playing around and go out in the coming days and get him a quality backup that can assure he can rest when given a much needed night off as well as push him to be better. Not one that lets in seven goals against a team below them in the standings.

P.S. I know the team just waived Cal Petersen, but Felix Sandstrom is not the answer, either!

Lance Green

I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!