It is no surprise to say that the Philadelphia Flyers could use some goaltending help. It is possible that they have that help in the form of Carter Hart. The team should not be quick to rush him to the NHL level, however. His development should be one of the top priorities for the Flyers.
There is a chance that Hart could be the Flyers next franchise goaltender. It is up to the team to set him up with the best opportunity to do so.
Patience Is Key With Goaltender Carter Hart
The numbers tell the story when it comes to Hart’s junior career. His impressive 116-46-22 record with the Everett Silvertips is only the beginning. In 190 games, Hart finished his junior career with a .927 SV% and a 2.01 GAA. He also had 26 career shutouts as a Silvertip. His 26 shutouts tied a WHL record, previously set by Tyson Sexsmith of the Vancouver Giants.
It took Sexsmith 179 games to set the record. Hart would record the feat in his 178th career WHL game.
One of the more impressive things about Hart is that his stats improved in every season he spent with the Silvertips. In his first official season with the team back in 2014-15, Hart finished that season with a 2.29 GAA and a .915 SV%. Flashforward to his final season, he finished with a 1.60 GAA and a .947 SV%.
Not only were his stats from this season tops in the WHL, they were tops among the entire Canadian Hockey League. That includes the QMJHL and the OHL as well. To put that in perspective within the WHL, nine players in the league reached 100 points. 18 players would hit the 40-goal mark.
The closest in goals-against average to Hart was Portland Winterhawks Cole Kehler with a 2.27 GAA. Victoria Royals Griffen Outhouse had the second best save percentage at .914. It is clear to see how much Hart dominated the league.
Hart would capture WHL Goaltender of the Year for the third straight season. He would also be named the best player in the WHL, as well.
First Professional Season For Carter Hart
While all of Hart’s junior numbers are impressive, this will still be his first year playing professional hockey. The adjustment from the WHL will likely take Hart some time to get used it. It will be helpful, however, that he has spent some time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms already.
Following his junior season the past two years, the Phantoms have brought him in to gain experience at the AHL level. While he never appeared in a game, Hart will be the first to tell you that the experience was still valuable to him.
“I think I got the sense that I’m just here to experience this area,” Hart said, back in 2017. “I’ve never been to Lehigh Valley. It’s nice to see the building, get to know the players, get to know the coaching staff, take it all in and learn from the pros.”
The goal for Hart is to make the NHL when training camp rolls around in September. However, the Flyers should not rush to make that happen. The team still has both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth under contract. And while a restricted free agent, for the time being, Alex Lyon will likely be in the mix for an NHL role as well. The team did offer him a qualifying offer.
For Hart, it would be best to let him have the reigns with the Phantoms. If Lyon spends time at the NHL level, Hart is likely to share goaltending duties with Anthony Stolarz. Hextall also mentioned there is a chance the team will carry three AHL goaltenders next season. Nonetheless, the Flyers should let Hart get acclimated to the professional game before throwing him into the NHL.
So NHL Or AHL Next Season?
For Hart to make the NHL roster, he would need to outplay his goaltending competition from the beginning of camp to the end of the preseason. Even then, Hextall is likely to continue following his philosophy of not rushing players.
“So, young players, it’s risky. You better be sure they’re ready. You better be sure,” Hextall said on bringing young players in. “…Once you do something, you’re in.”
So what will it be for Carter Hart next season? If the Flyers are smart, they will start their potential goaltender of the future off with the Phantoms. Stranger things have happened, but like Hextall said, the team better be sure if they decide to bring Hart right to the NHL.
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