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06-23-2012, 09:31 AM
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A Fistful of Dollars
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Stolarz ended up playing 50 games for the IceRays, posting a 2.84 average and .920 save percentage while logging a heavy workload for a draft-year goalie. His potential is self-evident. He's from a family of tall people ("it's something I was blessed with"), where his dad John is 6-foot-4 and mom Karol is 5-11. He's also more solidly built, almost like a football tight end or wide receiver, than many string-bean teen puck-stoppers.

"The kid's huge, the kid's huge," says Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's goaltending scout. "And he's got that drive and determination. He's aggressive, great athleticism and quickness. He's got the tools that could someday get him there. He's already got some of that stuff. Maybe four or five or six years down the road, the kid might be something."

So why did it take the 18-year-old Stolarz, who's hoping the improve his quickness and recovery speed next season with the NCAA's Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, so long to get noticed?

Stolarz, who's had some major junior interest in Canada, theorizes that he took a road less travelled. He played for a Junior B team as a 17-year-old rather than remain in AAA youth hockey.

"It could have been that I really wasn't exposed as much as other players," he says. "I played in the Empire Junior B Hockey League last year. A lot of players played Triple-A right until their age-18 year. I took the Junior B route instead of the midget route and maybe with it being the Junior B league, maybe I got overlooked."

But when you are a 6-foot-5 goalie who has agility and the talent to stop pucks for a living, scouts tend not to worry as much about your geographic location. Enter Anthony Stolarz, the Jackson, N.J., native who left the Garden State for the Gulf of Mexico and the Corpus Christi IceRays of the NAHL.

“I’m definitely a butterfly goalie,” Stolarz told New York Hockey Journal, when asked to describe his playing style. “But I’m also a player who can be acrobatic at times and will make a diving save. I don’t want to be a robot in the net, so I know I have to sometimes change things up and not be predictable to the shooters.”

This season, Stolarz has emerged as one of the more intriguing options in the 2012 NHL draft class because of his natural size and raw upside. His play has allowed the IceRays to keep pace in a tough division, and if his performance this season is any indication, he should get a call as a mid- to late-round project pick. He was the 20th-ranked North American goaltender in the Central Scouting Service mid-term rankings in January, but his stock could be rise even higher.
Stolarz agreed that he needs to improve his foot speed and noted that he also tends to hunch over in his basic stance at times. Both are areas of emphasis he’s addressing and will seek to improve by the time he arrives in Nebraska to play his college hockey. He committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha and is eager to test his mettle at the next level.

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