Robbie Short

Yale men’s hockey goaltender Alex Lyon ’17, the most decorated netminder in program history, has signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers, becoming the first Bulldog to leave Yale early for the pros in more than a decade.

After 93 games in the Yale uniform, the undrafted free agent had reportedly decided to end his college hockey career by early last week, after receiving heavy interest or offers from at least 12 NHL franchises.

“[Lyon] has positively affected every Yale hockey player for the last three years and we could not be happier for him,” captain Mitch Witek ’16 said. “While I am sure it will be difficult to leave behind some of his best friends, everyone understands and is wishing him the best possible professional career. After two years as the best goalie in college hockey, it was time to tackle the next challenge.”

Sportsnet reported Saturday night that the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers were among the favorites to sign Lyon, and the Calgary Flames were also rumored to have extended an offer. Rumors of the Flyers’ interest in Lyon did not surface until Tuesday, the day he signed.

According to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, entry-level contracts for a player of Lyon’s age, 23, must be for two years and be two-way contracts, meaning Lyon’s salary will depend on whether he plays for the Flyers or the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the program’s AHL affiliate.

“My main thing going into [the decision-making process] was just a team that had a great organization and was in a really strong spot with their players,” Lyon said. “They’re an up and coming organization that’s extremely strong. I’m just very, very proud and happy with my decision.”

According to Lyon, earning a degree remains a priority, and he plans to graduate from Yale in the future. Though no official plan has been detailed, this will most likely come through summer classes this year and a combination of summer classes and online classes in the future to obtain the additional necessary credits.

Meanwhile, Lyon will finish up classes at Yale this semester until he receives more definite plans from Philadelphia.

“I’m kind of at their whim at this point, and I mean that in the best way possible,” Lyon said. “I’m just going to trying to be flexible and do what I can.”

Over the course of his three years as a Yale starter, Lyon topped the national rankings in several statistics. He finishes his college career with a 0.931 save percentage, tied for eighth in NCAA men’s hockey history, and a 1.88 goals against average, ninth-best in history. His 15 career shutouts in three years are tied for ninth in the NCAA record books.

During his sophomore year, the Baudette, Minnesota, native earned the number one spot for save percentage, goals against average and shutouts, in addition to setting Yale records in all of those categories.

This season, Lyon led the country with a 1.64 goals against average along with a second-place 0.936 save percentage. He received all-Ivy, all-ECAC and All-New England honors and was named as a Mike Richter Award finalist for the second consecutive year, in addition to being selected as a Hobey Baker Award finalist.

Head coach Keith Allain ’80, who is seeing a player leave his team early to turn pro for the first time in his 10-year tenure at Yale, expressed nothing but pride and excitement following the news.

“He has worked extremely hard for this opportunity,” Allain said in a statement. “The Flyers get a great goaltender and an outstanding young man. Alex’s contributions to the Yale hockey program go way beyond the amazing statistics he put up. We will all be following his future development with great interest. I may even have to become a Flyer fan.”

After Lyon leaves, Yale’s net will likely be filled by goaltender Patrick Spano ’17, one of at least three netminders that will be on the Eli roster next year. In nine games of action over his Yale career, Spano has registered a 4–1–0 record and 0.916 save percentage while allowing just 2.02 goals per 60 minutes.

Goaltender Sam Tucker ’19 and incoming freshman Corbin Kaczperski could also take over between the pipes.

Lyon is the second member of the 2015–16 Bulldogs to turn pro. Defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16 signed with the Boston Bruins on March 29 and will finish his degree this spring while playing for the AHL’s Providence Bruins.

Although Lyon said he looked forward to contributing to the Flyers’ organization and moving on to the next level, he noted that the decision to leave the team was bittersweet.

“Yale has served me very well for three years, more than I could have hoped,” Lyon said. “I’m even more sad to leave this group of guys. They’re lifetime friends. They’re people I’m going to stay in touch with forever.”