With Injuries Mounting for Flyers, Hart Remains Focused on His Game
The Flyers have a healthy dose of goalies in camp and in the system, accumulating them over the years. There has always been one who has stood out among the rest on nothing more than potential.
All eyes have been on Carter Hart throughout training camp. The 20-year-old, who was drafted by the Flyers in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, is turning pro this season, which could mean a spot on an NHL roster.
That didn’t seem like much of a possibility as camp began. The Flyers have wanted to be patient with Hart and have him take every step necessary in development. Injuries may have opened the door for a chance this season. The injuries are not Hart's focus though, rather what he can control in his case to be an NHL goaltender.
“I haven’t really looked at that,” Hart said of the injuries. “For me, just taking things day by day. For now, I’m just focusing on a preseason game on Monday. You just have to be prepared. I think guys have to come to the rink and be prepared for anything. Right now, I think it’s just working hard in practice and taking things day by day.”
The jump from junior to pros is a sizable one, especially for a goaltender. Hart has been using the first several days of camp to get more comfortable with life as a professional on the ice.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Hart said. “I know coming from juniors, it’s a big jump, but I’m starting to adapt and adjust to this level and things are feeling more comfortable and I just have to keep working to keep adjusting and adapting to this level.
“I feel like just pushing the pace and making sure my feet are always set. I have that urgency aspect to my game. I think that’s the biggest thing from junior to pro is I have to be more urgent with some of my movements.”
The Flyers may want to let Hart take all of the steps, but he’s doing his best to show he’s ready for the NHL. Aside from the injuries that have forced Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon from the ice in camp, Hart has also been the best in terms of performance on the ice, stopping 45 of 47 shots in three preseason appearances so far.
It’s been a good preview of what is to come from Hart as his development furthers, but he’s not using anything as an indication of the future.
“My goal right now is to make this team and that’s where my mindset has to be,” Hart said. “It can’t be looking ahead into the future or anything like that. I just have to be where I’m at right now and that’s focusing on coming to the rink every day to work.
“You can’t get too ahead of yourself. You have to approach things with a day-by-day mindset and come to the rink prepared to work.”
For now, the preseason is offering Hart with some cool experiences. He didn’t get the chance to play in a preseason game last season, so the time on the ice, playing at Madison Square Garden -- against Henrik Lundqvist no less -- and starting Friday’s game in Lehigh Valley are all being taken in.
“It’s a lot of fun just to be around the guys, to be around them longer than in previous years,” Hart said. “I’ve gotten to know them a lot better and become more familiar with them. It makes things a lot more fun coming to the rink and getting to joke around with them and getting to know these guys a lot more on a more personal level. It makes things a lot more fun coming to the rink.”
As the final week of the preseason begins, Hart is still in camp. Dave Hakstol said that any player still in camp is there for a reason and in the running for a spot. That includes Hart, who has impressed Hakstol with the way he carries himself.
“Carter’s really conducted himself like a pro and he is a pro,” Hakstol said. “I think that’s the first thing that stands out. He’s been pretty consistent throughout camp. There hasn’t been any huge peaks or valleys to his play. That’s a good place to start when you’re battling for an NHL job.
“Carter has the ability and I think he’s shown that thus far in this camp. He’s truly focused on coming in and doing everything he can to make our hockey team. In order to do that, you’ve got to do your job on a daily basis and so far he’s shown a nice level of consistency. For me, that’s one of the things that stood out.”
Obviously, GM Ron Hextall really holds the keys to when Hart will get his chance. Hakstol said that the Flyers aren't skipping any steps with Hart in his development earlier in the week. Hextall has been heavily focused on the development path of all players and making sure they are ready for the next step.
What are Hart's chances in Hextall's eyes? He doesn't view him as NHL ready yet, but also isn't ruling anything out.
“He’s been good. He’s solid, he’s poised,” Hextall said.“He didn’t have a whole lot of work in Lehigh Valley, but he was solid. I think there’s some steps to go, but he’s looked solid when he’s played.
“There’s a lot of factors that come into play. You can’t ever say ever about anything. If it’s right for the team, sometimes you have to do it. Obviously we’re cognizant with any young player with what we feel like the right path and history tells what the right path is.
“I haven’t ruled out anybody that’s on the ice with our team right now. They’re here for a reason. They’ve earned to be here to this point and we’ll make decisions as we go along.”
So consider Hart a candidate to make the Flyers roster, even if the chances don't seem all that high. For now, he continues to work toward the goal of being with the Flyers to start the season. While no goalies were announced for Monday’s game as of yet, perhaps that will be the next chance for Hart to get some experience and for Flyers fans to see him up close.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.