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Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: How will Carter Hart follow up his outstanding 2015-16 season?

The reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year and arguably the top goaltender in the 2016 draft, Carter Hart has already set the bar for himself pretty high. Can he clear it again this year?

Marissa Baecker / Getty Images

The goalies we've discussed so far in our Flyers Top 25 Under 25 series are guys who came into the Flyers' system with different kinds of entrances. Merrick Madsen, an honorable mention, was more or less an unknown who may have only been drafted by the team in the sixth round of the 2013 draft because Peter Laviolette stumbled upon him while looking for high schools for his son. Felix Sandstrom, at No. 24, was a fairly well-regarded goaltending prospect, but opinions of him varied somewhat widely coming into his draft, and still do today. And our 22nd-ranked player, Alex Lyon, was found via the undrafted college free agent ranks -- meaning three straight drafts went by without any team taking a chance on him.

Contrast those guys' pre-draft standing with that of Carter Hart, this past draft's only goaltender drafted by the Flyers, and you'll notice a difference rather quickly.

No. 20: Carter Hart

Position: G
Age: 18 (8/13/1998)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Everett (WHL) - .918 SV%, 2.14 GAA in 63 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Sherwood Park, AB)
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft -- Round 2, Pick 48

Whether Flyers fans, in a vacuum, were excited or disappointed in the team's decision to use a second-round pick on a goaltender, it's hard not to think they got decent value out of the pick. Hart was the first goalie to come off the board in the entire 2016 draft -- at No. 48, the latest a first goalie of the draft has come off the board in 30 years -- and that's probably because you're hard-pressed to find many qualified people who didn't think Carter Hart was one of the two or three best goaltenders, if not the best goaltender, in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Hart was ranked first among goalies by ESPN's Corey Pronman, by Future Considerations, by TSN's Craig Button, and by goalie-centric publication InGoal Magazine, just to name a few. He was second on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of North American goalies, and was the third-ranked goaltender in Bob McKenzie's rankings.

It's not surprising that draftniks liked Hart, since everyone else who watched him seemed to like him pretty well, too. Hart was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year this past year for his work with the Everett Silvertips. (For those of you keeping score at home, yes, the Flyers did have the CHL's best defenseman and its best goaltender last year. Pretty soon we'll have taken over all of Canada.)

And he received that honor at 17 years old. Quite an accomplishment, and it's a deserved one. After splitting time in net in his first season with the Silvertips, Hart was the team's workhorse this past season, playing in 62 of Everett's 72 regular-season games. And for those who are interested in "clutch" and all that, Hart has also elevated his play in the playoffs in both of his two seasons with Everett.

(For context on the above numbers, the league-average save percentage in the WHL was 90.16% this past season, and was 90.03% in 2014-15.)

What makes Hart so good? Let's ask Pronman, who just earlier this past week called him the seventh-best goaltending prospect in the league:

Hart is a very smart goaltender. His knowledge of how to read the game and anticipate pucks using proper positioning in the net is high-end. Scouts describe how easy he makes it look and how he never gets out of his technique on tough saves. His athleticism is fine. He moves around at a solid level, and he has an above-average glove hand, but he doesn't have that explosive element in his game.

This all bears true when you watch him play the net. Not to try and glean too much insight from a highlight video (always important to remember that they're the highlights and not the full picture), but watch the video embedded at the bottom of this post. You don't see a ton of movement as Hart makes these saves; rather, you see (for the most part) a goalie who's put himself in the right position and just has to finish out the job. Whether or not it makes for a sexy highlight reel doesn't matter nearly as much as whether or not it leads to pucks being stopped, and Hart seems to be doing just fine a job on that front.

Since Hart, who didn't turn 18 until about three weeks ago, can't play in the AHL until he turns 20, it's very likely he'll spend another two years in the WHL. He's definitely going to be there next year, and it's extremely tough to envision a scenario in which he breaks camp with the Flyers at the NHL level in 2017-18. If nothing else, it'll give him a chance to further refine his game before he reaches the pro level, which isn't the worst fate. He'll get a chance to make the Team Canada roster for the World Juniors both this and next season (he was at their Evaluation Camp earlier this summer, though it wasn't his best showing), and who knows what other hardware he may pick up in that time.

But more than any other goalie prospect the Flyers have grabbed since the decade began, there will be a lot of eyes on Carter Hart. He may not be a can't-miss goaltending prospect (so few of those exist any more), but a lot of people -- from the Flyers to the Everett Silvertips to Hockey Canada to the fans of all of those organizations -- are rightfully going to be expecting nothing short of excellence from him this year. If he can't follow up his goaltender-of-the-year season with similar levels of success this year, there will be a lot of questions. But if he can pull together another outstanding season? Then by the time we're doing next year's Top 25 Under 25, we could be talking about Carter Hart like he's one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey.


How we voted for Carter Hart :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
22 n/a 20 19 18 18 n/a 17 20 19

How we voted at No. 20 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Tyrell Goulbourne Danick Martel Carter Hart Wade Allison Mikhail Vorobyov Petr Straka Mark Alt Nicolas Aube-Kubel Carter Hart Felix Sandstrom


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016: