Prospect coverage has never been as sought after as it is right now. People want to know what the future of hockey looks like and Philly Sports Network is committed to providing that information. Prospect profiles and game recaps are fantastic but do not necessarily paint a picture that shows a player’s development and progression towards accomplishing their goal of playing in the NHL. “Under the Microscope” is a new weekly feature where we will focus in on a specific prospect within the Philadelphia Flyers organization and analyze his performance in a particular game or set of games.
On Saturday, October 6th, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms opened up the 2018-19 AHL season against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at home in front of a sellout crowd. Not only was the contest a sellout, but it was also the most massive opening night sellout in team history. Why such an enormous crowd you might ask? Well, the answer is quite simple. Everyone was coming out to see the future of Philadelphia Flyers goaltending, Carter Hart.
It is hard to recall a past Flyers prospect that has received as much hype as Hart, and it’s easy to understand why. The former three-time WHL goaltender of the year and two-time CHL goaltender of the year appears to be the long-awaited answer to the organization’s netminding woes. Everyone invested in Flyers hockey will be keeping a close eye on Hart as he transforms into the face of the franchise. That journey officially got underway last night.
The first period of play could not have gone better for the 20-year-old puck-stopper. Hart faced three chances early on and turned them all away with ease. Action in his zone was minimal in the first twenty minutes of play. He stopped all ten shots thrown his way in the period. However, none of these chances tested the young netminder much.
As the second period got underway, Bridgeport picked up the pace. The Sound Tigers finally started to challenge Hart, providing more quality scoring opportunities. Hart’s first big test came by way of a breakaway. Kieffer Bellows left all other players in the dust, looking to get his team on the board. Hart remained calm and composed, using his right shoulder to block the shot.
CARTER HART BREAKAWAY SAVE pic.twitter.com/gnfkVOQfQA
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 7, 2018
Bellows eventually got his revenge on Hart later in the period as a puck went off his skate and past Hart to make the score 3-1 in favor of Lehigh Valley. Yes, a shutout was no longer in the cards, but Bellows’s tally far from Hart’s fault. Deflection goals happen, and Hart was able to put it behind him and finish the period strong.
Offensive production is a goalie’s best friend. Luckily for Hart, his team provided plenty. The Phantoms gave their netminder a 5-1 lead to work with as the final period went along. Unfortunately, Hart would make the game slightly more interesting. A shot would wiz by his glove on a Bridgeport powerplay cutting the lead to 5-2. The Sound Tigers would light the lamp just 17 seconds later, making it a 5-3 contest midway through the third.
Hiccups throughout the night happen for goalies. It is not easy to produce sixty minutes of perfection. After letting in two goals, Hart hunkered down. He did not allow anything else passed him, finishing the game with 31 saves on 34 shots. The Phantoms walked away with a 6-3 win, and Hart obtained his first professional hockey victory.
In his first professional hockey game, Hart demonstrated a level of calmness and composure that is hard to find in rookie netminders. He never appeared overwhelmed by the task at hand and was ready for anything that came his way.
Though he already comes equipped with a bunch of it, skill is something that will continue to develop as Hart’s number of starts increase. What is harder to teach and develop is the ability to react appropriately when the going gets tough. Allowing two goals in 17 short seconds can damage a netminder’s psyche. There is nothing worse than letting thoughts of coughing up a sure consume your mind. Hart did not allow that to happen. He was able to brush off the unfortunate events and finish what he started.
Overall, Hart’s debut with the Phantoms was exactly what everyone wanted to see. It was a great starting point for what should be an exciting year for the young goalie.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports