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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: The Carter Hart era is underway

And boy does he look like a special player.

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

In the midst of a season drenched by a downpour of dreariness over the first months of the season, the sun began to shine through in the middle of December. Carter Hart was recalled to Philadelphia, just hours ahead of the team announcing that then-head coach Dave Hakstol had been relieved of his duties, and would go on to win his first NHL start the very next day.

For a fan base that had continued to grow more and more apathetic, Hart’s mere presence had breathed life back into the arena. Jeers turned to cheers and the team would soon embark on their best stretch of the season, with Hart winning eight straight games. While the team may have fell short of a playoff berth in the end, things truly felt different. Hart was just what the team, and the fan base, needed.

Now, with only 31 games under his belt, Hart will set out to prove that he’s the number one goaltender in this league that we believe him to be, while the team looks to take a step forward into this new era of Flyers hockey.

No. 1: Carter Hart

Position: G
Age: 21 (8/13/1998)
Size: 6’2”, 181
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft — Round 2, Pick 48
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Philadelphia (NHL) - .917 SV%, 2.83 GAA in 31 GP
Nationality: Canadian
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: T-1

It’s no surprise that Hart was voted as the team’s top player under 25 years of age by a unanimous decision. The then-20 year old netminder began his 2018-2019 campaign in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and while things may have gotten off to a bumpy start — or even more literally, a dim start, thanks to unpaid electric bills — Hart was able to turn it around quickly, posting a .939 save percentage in the five games prior to his first NHL call-up. And once he hit the NHL, he showed everyone that he was indeed ready to compete at the highest level.

Being a goaltender, let alone a number one goaltender, in Philadelphia of all places is no easy task. He’s been deemed “the savior” for some time now, and that of course comes with immense amount pressure. But to this point he’s been up the task and has handled the situation magnificently. As the Flyers look to become competitive again the weight on his shoulders will only grow, but whether or not he can handle the pressure should be the least of our worries.

The sixth of eight goaltenders in total to make an appearance for the Flyers last season, Hart finished with the best raw save percentage of the group, though Brian Elliott actually comes out on top by most shot quality models. At least at even strength. Hart, on the other hand, looks to have played his best hockey while the team was shorthanded, posting the twelfth-best goals saved above average and the second-best delta save percentage (actual save percentage minus expected save percentage) in penalty kill situations league-wide per Corsica.

Will that continue? Who knows, goaltender performance is thought to be more volatile than any other position in hockey, and whether or not his unquestionably strong performance in man-down situations was a random occurrence or a sign of what’s to come is yet to be seen.

One thing is clear though, and it’s that the talent is there for Hart to become one of the game’s best in the near future.

The lone black mark on his season has to be when he hid an injury from the team ahead of the Stadium Series contest. It led to him starting a game versus the Montreal Canadiens that he shouldn’t have played in to begin with, and getting pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first ten minutes. Let’s maybe not do that again, okay? Okay.

The best-case scenario is that Hart picks up where he left off, continues to improve, acts as the workhorse in net, and helps the Flyers get back into the postseason. From there he grows into one of the best goaltenders in the league, and gives them stability in net for an extended period of time for the first time in a while.

However, it is entirely possible that things won’t go so smoothly. He could struggle out of the gate this year, and if that happens we’ll just have to be patient. Because at this point there’s no reason to question his ability to be an NHL goaltender. We’re past that, and the question now is just how good of an NHL goaltender can he be? For the answer to that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

That’ll do it for our Summer of 2019 edition of the Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25. A big thank you to everyone who participated, and we’ll be back at it again this coming Winter.

Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25: