The countdown to zero is on with Carter Hart, since it is a matter of when the Philadelphia Flyers prospect and Everett Silvertips’ linchpin will lay claim to the WHL’s shutout record.
It is no newsflash that Hart is often on another planet performance-wise, although Everett, as a U.S.-based member of an entity marketed as the Canadian Hockey League, might be in the wrong country for media-exposure purpose.
The 19-year-old Hart, already wearing the braids of WHL goalie of the year and world junior medallist twice over, comes to the end of the month with 25 career shutouts, including six in only 24 games this season. Barring extreme circumstances, the WHL will see another career record go down in the same season that Kamloops Blazers skipper Don Hay became the all-time winningest coach with 743 wins (and counting). The career shutout standard of 26 belongs to Tyson Sexsmith, who played for Hay with the Vancouver Giants from 2005 through ’09.
The Silvertips (.657 points pct., first in the WHL U.S. Division) and Hart veered away from the script somewhat by getting into a last-shot-wins 6-5 overtime game with Spokane on Sunday. That only caused Hart’s goals-against average to bloat to all of 1.51, while his save percentage dropped to .953.
— Jesse Geleynse (@JesseGeleynse) January 29, 2018
Look once. Look twice.
Look as much as you want.
Comeback victory for your 1st place Tips, in photos …
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) January 29, 2018
Carter Hart stopped 38/43 shots in Everett 6-5 win tonight.
It's the first time this season Hart allowed more than 3 goals in a game.
— Flyers Prospects (@futureofphilly) January 29, 2018
Statistical feats in any sport have to be put into context. Sexsmith’s tenure in the WHL coincided with the first four seasons after the crackdown on hooking, holding and myriad of obstruction tactics. That was still a long tail of the Dead Puck era. During Sexsmith’s three seasons as the Giants’ starter, 20 WHL teams finished the regular season with fewer than 200 goals against. Conversely, only seven WHL teams, including Everett in both years, did so in 2015-16 and ’16-17. The Silvertips are also the only WHL team on pace to keep the tally below 200 – a positive junior hockey version of baseball’s Mendoza Line? – this season. Scoring is up, but Hart is defying the trend.
Everett’s slate to start off a new month includes a home-and-home this weekend against the B.C. Division-leading Kelowna Rockets and Hart’s Team Canada compatriot Dillon Dubé (CGY), which should provide grist for the debate over who is top dog in the Western Conference, which seems to be taking a backseat to the Moose Jaw-Swift Current offensive pyrotechnics in the Eastern half of the ‘Dub.’
Hay gets win mark
The young Kamloops Blazers didn’t dare keep Hay, or his family, waiting. The victory last Saturday that was a WHL-record No. 743 for Hay was the last of a season-best five-game win streak, coming on home ice while Hay and his spouse, Vicki, had two of their adult children and three grandchildren in attendance.
“To have the grandchildren here now and my wife who has supported me in a lot of different areas and through different moves, it’s very special to have them in the building,” Hay told Kamloops This Week.
“And it feels like you know everyone in the building. When you grow up here and you’ve lived here all your life, you see a lot of people and you feel you touch every one of them and they touch you.”
— CFJC Today Kamloops (@CFJC_Today) January 28, 2018
Congratulations to Don Hay of the @blazerhockey who last night became the @TheWHL all-time wins leader with 743 regular season victories. In addition to this milestone, Don is a 3 time #memorialcup Champion, 3 time #whl Championships and 2 x WHL Coach of the year. pic.twitter.com/ma2L9VCzK1
— The Coaches Site (@TheCoachesSite) January 29, 2018
Oddly enough, both the 62-year-old Hay and the CHL record holder, Brian Kilrea (who was at the helm for 1,193 wins with the Ottawa 67’s from 1974-2009) set their marks in their hometowns. It would seem like it doesn’t get more Canadian than that.
The Sarnia Sting, paced by Jordan Kyrou (STL) and Adam Ruzicka (CGY), will complete the month as the only OHL team that is undefeated in regulation since the trade deadline. Along the way, the Sting (.724 points pct, No. 3 seed in the OHL Western Conference) have taken 5-of-6 possible points from games against division leaders, which included a win in Hamilton last Sunday.
Kyrou needs little hyperbolizing, what with the seven-game point streak and distinction of being the only OHL player averaging more than two per game (2.11). The Sting surge has also been fuelled by Ruzicka, who has 10 goals over the past six games, which attests to what playing at the world junior championship, where he was a contributor for Team Slovakia, can do for a player’s confidence. As far as deadline additions go, Michael Pezzetta (MTL) and Cam Dineen (ARI), as a power centre and a playmaking defenceman respectively, are giving Sarnia another dimension to its attack. Each of the 19-year-old prospects has 11 points in eight games since the trades.
The win against Hamilton kept Sarnia second overall in the OHL, but if the playoffs were starting today it would be a No. 3 playoff seed due to being in the same division as the league-leading Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. That small inequity does not appear to be posing any distraction to the Sting.
Canadian NHL Team Prospect of the Week: Logan Brown, C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
The BMS line – Ottawa Senators first-rounder Brown between Adam Mascherin (FLA) and Kole Sherwood (CLB) – is greatly responsible for Kitchener’s spike in everyone’s OHL power rankings. Brown, who needed time to tend to a knee injury after playing in the world juniors and getting moved by the retooling Windsor Spitfires, looked every bit like a man coming back refreshed from a vacation in his first weekend with his new team. The centre had six points (2G-4A) in two games last week. All told, Brown, Mascherin and Sherwood had eight goals and 21 points.
The line would seem like an ideal setup for Brown, whose size and disposition seems to lend itself more to facilitating than finishing scoring chances. The 6-foot-6, 214-pound centre had twice as many goals as assists during his first three OHL seasons with Windsor. Both Mascherin (second in the OHL in goals) and Sherwood (a 33-goal scorer last season) can take care of the finishing work.
New name to know: Nikita Okhotyuk, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Set your salivary glands to drool. Okhotyuk, the 67’s first-year import defenceman, put in his entry for goal of the year with an end-to-end effort last Saturday, where he beat three Kingston Frontenacs players and tucked the puck between the skates of the last defender, Liam Murray.
Nikita Okhotyuk skates end-to-end flying past three Kingston players and schooling Liam Murray with a pass between his legs. Great overall effort from the #2019NHLDraft eligible. pic.twitter.com/yHi2Vl3ezm
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) January 28, 2018
The fact that goal came from a defenceman who is a late-birthday 17-year-old and doesn’t play on Ottawa’s top pairing speaks volumes about how much the skill level has jumped up in the OHL over the last 10 to 12 seasons. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound Oktotyuk, who is from Chelyabinsk, Russia, has just four goals and eight points in 44 games for Ottawa. Apparently, he’s got some offensive flair that’s just begging to be released between now and when he’s eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.