The exciting week the Phantoms have had — first having clinched a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade on Wednesday, then having erased a three-goal third-period deficit on Friday night en route to a win over Providence — hasn’t come without its share of bad news. Phantoms starting goalie Anthony Stolarz was injured in Wednesday’s game, and it was confirmed yesterday that he’ll be out for the entirety of the playoffs:
Head coach Scott Gordon confirms in his Post-Game presser that goaltender Anthony Stolarz will miss the postseason. Said he's out 3-4 months— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) April 15, 2017
First of all: this is a bummer for Stolarz, who has been a key piece on the Phantoms for the past three seasons and now won’t be there for their first playoff run in Lehigh Valley. Hopefully he’ll be around for many more playoff runs while wearing an orange jersey in Pennsylvania in the future.
But, in the more immediate future, this leaves the Phantoms with a spot to fill on their roster. AHL rookie Alex Lyon, who had a respectable first year with the Phantoms, figures to step into the starter’s role for the team as it heads into the playoffs, but the team will need a backup to fill his place.
We learned today that that backup will be Everett Silvertips goalie and 2016 second-round draft pick Carter Hart, courtesy of Hart himself via the Everett Herald’s Jesse Geleynse:
Carter Hart told me he's headed to join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philly's AHL affiliate) tomorrow.— Jesse Geleynse (@JesseGeleynse) April 15, 2017
A year after being named CHL Goaltender of the Year, Hart was even better for Everett in 2016-17, posting a .927 save percentage in 54 games. He was also the starting goalie for Team Canada in the World Juniors, though the tournament as a whole was an up-and-down experience for him. Of the Flyers’ several impressive goaltending prospects, there’s a case to be made that Hart is the best one — ESPN’s Corey Pronman ranked him as the third-best goaltending prospect in all of hockey earlier this season, for instance.
Hart signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers back in October, so there are no contract hoops for him to jump through to join the Phantoms and this won’t affect his slide rule status with the Flyers (his entry-level contract will not begin this year, in other words). Prior to his joining the Phantoms, Reading Royals goalie Martin Ouellette had been backing up Lyon with the Phantoms (he’d just been called up yesterday), so it’s likely that he’ll be heading back to Reading in short order as they continue their own playoff run.
The team electing to have Hart join the Phantoms, rather than keep Ouellette up with the AHL club, could mean one of a few things. Maybe they wanted to make sure Ouellette could get back to Reading, and given that Hart is the only other goalie available under contract to the Phantoms, he was the only choice. Or maybe they just wanted the best possible talent backing up Lyon, and found that to be Hart. Or maybe they want to see what Hart can do at the professional level, and they’re going to try and get him onto the ice during the playoffs.
There are a lot of possibilities. In any case, it’s exciting to see another talented prospect don the orange and black in a game for the first time, even if it’s in Lehigh Valley and even if he may only be sitting on a bench opening a door for another guy.