Goaltending has been an issue of concern for the Philadelphia Flyers. With players like Carter Hart coming through the pipeline, that could be changing. He highlights a list of Flyers goaltending prospects that could bring a breath of fresh air to the position. Some of a few years away, but they appear to be worth waiting for.
Hart is among a few goaltending prospects that have the ability to become regulars in the NHL. He joins prospects such as Felix Sandstrom, Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz. The timeline is perfect for one of these goaltenders to become the new face in the Flyers net.
As it stands, Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott will handle the goaltending duties this upcoming season. Both Neuvirth and Elliott have contracts for the next two years, however. It’s likely that one, or even both, will not be back following the expiration of their contracts. This opens the door for someone such as Hart.
Hart had received praise from Flyers GM Ron Hextall during his first development camp last year. The Flyers GM mentioned that they wouldn’t have picked Hart if they didn’t feel he could be a number one goaltender in the future.
“Carter’s got some special qualities. His ability, that’s one thing. But mentally, everything that we talked about, our scouts saw.” Hextall said. “The mental part of the game, he’s very strong. He’s a real student of the game. He wants to get better, asks a lot of questions.
Hart is coming off an impressive season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. Finishing with an impressive 32-11-2 record, Hart helped the team capture the U.S. Divsion, as well as the best record in the Western Conference. He would also lead the league in GAA (1.99), save percentage (.927%) and shutouts (9). It was an easy decision to hand him CHL Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season.
Hart got the chance to play for his country as Team Canada would lose to USA in a shootout, capturing silver in the 2017 World Junior Championship. In four games, the 18-year-old finished with a 2.36 GAA and a .906 SV%. Hart would lead Canada to the finals when he came on for Connor Ingram in the semi-final game. Ingram would give up two goals on three shots. Hart came in and stopped all 28 shots he faced, including one that almost tied the game late in the second period.
Hart isn’t the only goaltending prospect contending to become the Flyers starter in a few years, however
While Hart has captured a lot of the attention, Sandstrom has made his own case for becoming the goaltender of the future. The 20-year-old had the chance to jump ahead of Hart and gain more pro experience, but he made a different decision. Sandstrom decided to sign a one year contract to stay in Sweden with Brynas.
The decision may turn out to be a smart one as there likely wouldn’t been much time for him with the Phantoms. With both Stolarz and Lyon re-signing, playing time would have been hard to come by.
“I’m in a good position at home in Sweden,” Sandstrom said. “I get to play a lot. Really like my goalie coach there, too. I’m in a good position at home. No reason to rush. I think I need one more year to develop more and be even more ready to come over here.”
Sandstrom recently finished his second full season in the SHL. The young net-minder saw himself with a 14-7 record, along with a 2.25 GAA and a .908 SV%. He also appeared in 13 games during the postseason, finishing with a 2.83 GAA and a .901 SV%.
Sandstrom also played for Team Sweden at the 2017 World Juniors. He was named the best goaltender of the tournament. He posted a 2.17 GAA and a .915 SV%. Sweden would lose to Canada in the semi-final as Hart shut the door on Sweden.
Hart and Sandstrom aren’t the only goaltending prospects in the organization. Matej Tomek, Kirill Ustimenko, Lyon and Stolarz highlight the immense depth the Flyers have at the position. The Flyers are known for having one of the best prospects groups in the league. The goaltending depth they have is one example of that.
While there are multiple goaltenders ready to prove themselves, Hart and Sandstrom are expected the fight for the position in the near future. And it won’t be surprising to see them in the league at the same time. A tandem role isn’t out of the question in the eyes of Hextall.
“The goalie dictates that,” Hextall said during the team’s development camp. “You still need two goalies. I never want to have a backup that you say, ‘OK, he’s a 10- or 15-game guy.’ What if your guy gets hurt, where do you go? It’s always a tandem.”
It’ll be at least another year or two before Hart or Sandstrom reaches the NHL. But the journey to the pro level will certainly be something to watch in the near future.