On Sunday night, Carter Hart, the highly-touted prospect goalie in the Flyers system, played his final WHL game, a 3-0 loss to the Swift Current Broncos in Game 6 of the WHL Final.
It was a disappointing end to a stellar junior career for Hart, who was WHL Player and Goaltender of the Year and set a WHL record for shutouts in a career. But that chapter has now officially closed. With that, Hart turns pro and is one step closer to reaching the NHL.
Get ready, here he comes.
So the first big question is how long until the Flyers call on Hart?
It’s not as simple as instantly throwing him into the fire. For one, the Flyers already have two veteran goalies under contract and two more in the system with NHL experience. Hart is going to follow a similar path and hone his skills in the minors first, unless he completely wows everyone in the preseason and training camp.
At the very least, Hart is going to start the season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in his first year as a professional.
From here, this is where the timeline varies. Goalies can get hurt, roster moves happen and there’s always a chance that if Hart is the Phantoms No. 1 goalie and performing well enough to warrant a call that he makes the jump to the NHL sooner than expected.
It’s safe to assume that if the Flyers aren’t working around injuries and carry the same two goalies as last season, Hart will spend the full season with the Phantoms.
After that, all bets are off. The Flyers will have to either re-sign Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth or choose to go internal with the prospects in the system. Hart is almost certain to get a long look at that point.
In the short of it, Hart is a year away at least. The rest is in his court.
If Hart brings the same competitive nature and poise to the AHL that he did to the WHL for five solid seasons, his path to the NHL will only progress quicker. But there is always a chance that Hart struggles at the AHL level at first and needs more time than expected.
Regardless of the timeline, Hart’s overall performance since his draft year, his poise in goal and his overall skill do have him on the fast track to become the Flyers savior in net.
This is one player that Flyers fans have been waiting on for years, not just since Hart’s selection, but for decades of goaltenders left and right being thrown into the Flyers cage.
After five seasons on the West Coast, Hart is heading to the Philadelphia area, where fans will have a better opportunity to see the final steps of his journey to the NHL unfold.