The way Anthony Stolarz sees it, a six-hour car ride plus a nearly four-hour flight has made all the difference in the world to his hockey career.

Go back almost three years and Stolarz had no idea where hockey was taking him, especially after he was washed out of two junior league tryouts.

That’s when his parents offered to drive him from their home in Jackson, NJ to Albany, NY, for a tryout with the North American Hockey League.

The drive should have taken roughly four hours, but it became a six-hour ordeal.

“I didn’t make two previous tryout teams and wasn’t invited to any USA camps,” said the 19-year-old American goalie, who represents the Flyers' future right now. “The North American League has a camp in Albany, so we drove.”

They drove with small equipment, too. Small enough that his pads and such just didn’t quite measure up to his then 6-foot-5 frame. (He’s 6-6 now.)

“I was going through a growth spurt and all I had was my pads from the previous year,” Stolarz said. “They didn’t fit well, but I had no choice. It was really small for me. At first, it was a little awkward, and then I adjusted to it. Not everyone is 6-5 and other guys had to adjust to shooting on me. I was able to get control of my body.”

Despite the awkwardness of the moment, Stolarz made an impression on a number of people, including Flyers goalie scout Neil Little. He also drew the cherished invite for a shot with Corpus Christie.

“It wasn’t over,” Stolarz said. “I then had to make a decision to fly to Dallas for their main camp and try out. It was a good decision.”

From there, everything began to fall in place for the lankly goalie, who weighs 215 pounds.

A year with Corpus Christie led to the Flyers drafting Stolarz last summer in the second round (39th overall) with the pick obtained from Columbus in the Sergei Bobrovsky trade.

That led to a scholarship at Nebraska-Omaha last fall, which lasted all of eight games before Stolarz dropped out and landed in the Ontario Hockey League with the high-octane London Knights.

The decision to leave school didn’t sit well with his parents. Education first, they said. Which is why Stolarz took courses in London and has enrolled in an online business course this summer at Rutgers to finish his freshman year.

“Leaving Nebraska was tough on my parents because I was giving up my education, but I am arranging things to take courses in London and here,” Stolarz said, adding that he spoke to the Flyers' director of player development, Ian Laperriere, before making the decision.

“The Flyers had no influence at all in me leaving school. Players coming from the junior ranks were giving me the pros and cons of coming from different paths. Omaha was great, and I thank them for the opportunity, but the chance to play more games and work with goalie coach Bill Dark [was appealing]. The Flyers told me whatever makes me happy, they would back me 100 percent.”

Mind you, when Stolarz arrived at London, Dale Hunter’s Knights had won 24 consecutive games.

It took a while before Stolarz unseated starting goalie Kevin Bailie and back-up Jake Patterson -- one of two OHL goalies with the same first and last name, albeit a different spelling for the Saginaw netminder.

Stolarz finished the regular season at London with a 13-3-2 record, 2.29 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 20 games.

“Take a snapshot from where Stolarz was last year at this time playing in the North American league,” said Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of hockey operations. "Coming out before he was ready. And then going to World Junior camp in Lake Placid. Going to Nebraska-Omaha, splitting ice time there, the older guy [Bailie] got the majority of it. Leaves school and goes to London and gets the bulk of ice time there. And becomes the guy [starter] there. It’s been a great year for him from a development standpoint. He’s done well for himself.”

Stolarz was impressed by how much higher the level of competition was playing junior hockey in Canada.

“Yeah, you saw increase in skill, especially in the playoffs with Saginaw and Kitchener and Barrie in the finals,” he said. "All those teams had top-end NHL draft picks playing for them. We went to the Memorial Cup and all those guys who were signed to the NHL, the talent level definitely got better as we went on.”

He admits it became a bit imposing once the playoffs began, then London reached the Memorial Cup tournament.