Goaltending has been an issue all season for the Philadelphia Flyers, but on Tuesday fans will get to see the team’s goalie of the future for the first time.
Carter Hart, 20, has been tapped to start against the Detroit Red Wings by head coach Scott Gordon, also making his Flyers debut in the game.
Hart will be the sixth goalie to start a game for the Flyers this season, but his minor-league success has given hope to a fanbase that has consistently been let down by goaltending in recent years.
“We have some injuries in goal and we’ve tried every goalie in our organization,” GM Chuck Fletcher said when announcing Hart had been called up on Monday. “It’s probably not the ideal time to give Carter a game but Carter’s playing really well and he’s a professional hockey player, he’s a strong kid mentally, and he’ll go in and give his best.”
Hart has appeared in 17 games with the Leigh Valley Phantoms this season, his first in the AHL. He has a 9-5-2 record with a .901 save percentage, 3.05 goals-against average and one shutout, but he’s hit his stride in the last month, going 4-1-0 since Nov. 30, giving up two goals or less in the four wins.
Canadian hockey fans will remember Hart as the starter for Canada at the last two world junior hockey championships, winning the gold medal at last year’s tournament.
Hart, a native of Sherwood Park, Alta., played his junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. In four seasons with the Silvertips, he posted more than 30 wins three times and is the only goalie to win the CHL goaltender of the year award twice. In 190 WHL starts over four seasons, Hart posted a 116-46-10 record with a .927 save percentage, a 2.01 goals-against average and 26 shutouts.
“I’ve always wanted to be an NHL goaltender ever since I was four years old, so when I got the call last night I was really excited and kinda shaking with enthusiasm a little bit,” Hart said Monday. “I just got to trust my game and play to my strengths. When it’s game time it’s just time to play, you can’t think you just have to play.”
The Flyers come into the game on a four-game losing streak. That losing streak cost head coach Dave Hakstol his job, with Hart’s AHL head coach Gordon getting promoted on Monday. The Flyers currently have two goalies (Brian Elliott, and Anthony Stolarz) on injured reserve, while Calvin Pickard was lost on waivers to the Arizona Coyotes. Veteran Michal Neuvirth will back up Hart.
Philadelphia sits in the basement of the Eastern Conference with a 12-15-4 record this season. The Flyers haven’t had much go right for them this season, but Fletcher isn’t worried about giving Hart some NHL experience this early in his professional career.
“I have no worries about Cater Hart long-term,” Fletcher said Monday. “He’s going to be a really good goalie for this franchise.”