As Flyers fans eagerly await the Carter Hart era, the 19-year-old made more major junior hockey history Saturday afternoon.
Hart was named the 2017-18 CHL Goaltender of the Year for the second time. He is the first goaltender to win the award twice as the honor wraps up one of the best junior careers ever.
He took home the award in 2015-16, his draft year, and was one of three finalists last season. Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven (Canadiens) won it in 2016-17 over Hart.
In 2017-18, Hart led all WHL goaltenders in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (seven), and that is counting missed time because of mono and the world juniors. Everett lost to Swift Current in the WHL Final, but to little blame of Hart. The goalie posted a 2.40 GAA and .921 save percentage in 22 playoff games for the Silvertips.
The CHL Goaltender of the Year is the second time Hart has captured history this spring. Earlier this month, Hart became the first goalie to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL top goaltender) three times when he won it for the third consecutive year. He also won the 2017-18 Four Broncos Trophy (WHL MVP). He obtained gold with Canada during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, where he recorded a .930 save percentage in seven games.
With his Everett career over, Hart will be remembered as one of the best goalies in major junior history. He finished his career with 116 wins, a 2.01 GAA, .927 save percentage and 26 shutouts, tied with Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver, WHL) for the most ever in CHL history (see story).
The Flyers drafted Hart with the 48th overall pick in 2016, making him the first goalie selected. As Hart’s junior career ends, the highly touted prospect will turn pro next season. This week, he joined the Phantoms for the remainder of their AHL playoff run.
As the Flyers’ goaltending continues to be a circus filled with mismanaging, underwhelming performances and injuries, the calls for Hartmania to begin in 2018-19 will only grow louder. But studying how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has previously handled prospects, it remains highly unlikely that Hart will be a Flyer come October. It should be noted, though, Hextall refused to say whether Hart needed a full season in Lehigh Valley next season, which left the door open, however slightest, for the goalie to earn a spot in The Show in training camp.
A lot would have to fall Hart’s way for that to happen. Hextall is notoriously ultra conservative with his prospects and Hart would have to prove that not only is he NHL ready but that he's also better than one of Brian Elliott or the oft-injured Michal Neuvirth. There is plenty of summer left and how Hextall handles the Neuvirth conundrum may tip his hat on how he views Hart’s readiness.
For now, though, Hart has closed the door on the Everett chapter of his hockey career as the best goalie in the CHL for the second time in the past three years. A fitting end to an otherwise fantastic pilgrimage through the WHL.
“It is hard to say goodbye to Everett, whose fans love their team and have taken us in like family,” Hart told Philly Voice. “I’m taking a little piece of Everett to another place whose fans love their team, Philadelphia. I can’t wait. All I want is a chance to prove myself.”