The Philadelphia Flyers selected 6-3 goalie Carson Bjarnason with the 51st overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. This is what you need to know about this player.
With a name like Bjarnson, if you do not know where he is from you might assume he is a Swede. But Bjarnason was born in Carberry Manitoba in Canada. His heritage is Icelandic and First Nations on the Metis side. He was not drafted in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft but has shown massive growth in his game since then, literally, and figuratively.
Bjarnason was only 5-9 as a 15-year-old which may have played a role in why he was not drafted, but he remained on the Brandon Wheat Kings’ radar and was added to their protected list. Bjarnson was invited to the Wheat Kings camp in 2021 and after a growth spurt, he measured in at 6-3. His growth spurt and performance on the ice earned him a contract with the Wheat Kings.
“Carson was a listed player, who has grown a ton since we last saw him in the net. We were looking for someone to step up and embrace the goalie battle in camp and he did just that. Carson has all the potential to be a pro hockey player someday” said Wheat Kings GM Doug Gasper.
That season he played 23 games as a rookie with an 8-10-1 record and a 4.00 GAA with a .882 SV%. His performance took a big step forward in his draft year as his role and ice time improved. In 47 games as a sophomore, he posted a 21-19-5 record and his GAA dropped to 3.08 and his SV% improved to .900 on a Wheat Kings team that failed to make the playoffs.
Going from playing just under 25 games to close to 50 games required a big adjustment for Bjarnson. “It’s a bit of an adjustment learning how to take care of your body and learning how to be a starter” he told .
Missing the playoffs offered Bjarnson the opportunity to get a taste of international hockey playing for Team Canada at the U18. He was the starting goalie for Canada and was excellent with a 4-2-0 record including a shutout in an 8-0 win over Germany. Bjarnson was having a tremendous tournament for Canada until a head injury ended his tournament in a game against Sweden that he was unable to finish.
Playing against the elite players in his peer group on a strong Team Canada squad allowed scouts to get a different impression of his game. A better defensive team and larger ice surface were two adjustments he made very quickly. Playing against elite opposition was another. The biggest change from his perspective was his shooting ability. “They can really shoot from anywhere. They’re all pretty good players so being able to read their release from far out.”
Going into the NHL Draft, Bjarnason was the top-ranked North American goalie by NHL Central scouting. The first goalie selected was in the second round as Chicago selected World Junior sensation Adam Gajan 35th overall. Michael Hrabal and Trey Augustine followed going 38th to Arizona, and 41st to Detroit. With the goalie run officially on and premium goalies going fast, the Philadelphia Flyers traded up to the 51st overall selection, sending pick 167 and the Los Angeles Kings 2024 second-round pick (previously acquired in the Ivan Provorov trade) to the Chicago Blackhawks to get their man.
The scouting report on Bjarnason reads as a calm presence in goal, quick feet, and excellent lateral mobility. Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting spoke to and said of Bjarnason “The presence that he has, the confidence and the poise, the skill level that he has at this point in his career, it’s amazing. His mechanics are excellent, and he’s got great feet. Extremely skilled, very good quickness”
Playing in Brandon, Bjarnason regularly sees a high volume of medium to high danger chances and shots against. His mental game is one of his more impressive traits. “At 16, I had people telling me I had a really calm game, and they liked the way I played, but some nights I’d overdo it and act a little too calm and maybe stay behind the play a little bit. So, it’s having a balance between having that certain intensity, but also being laidback and not showing any emotion.” Bjarnason told . “Controlling my emotions. That’s something I’ve always had. Super fortunate with the way I was brought up. It’s just really treating it one puck at a time. It’s just me and the puck out there. I can’t really focus on any outside noise. So, just control what you can to the best of your abilities. “
Bjarnason will attend his first NHL Rookie Camp this July where Flyers fans can get their first look at the new goalie prospect, and all the 2023 draftees. He will return to the WHL and play another season as the Wheat Kings starting goalie and be a contender to backstop Canada at the World Junior Championships.
photo by Anthony Mingioni