Tom Dougherty

Imagine if Carter Hart arrived before having to clean up Flyers' mess

Imagine if Carter Hart arrived before having to clean up Flyers' mess

Moments after the final horn blew Monday night and The Boils’ “Orange And The Black” began serenading a joyous Wells Fargo Center, it was hard not to wonder if this was an instance of What Could Have Been, or even What Probably Should Have Been, if only.

If only Carter Hart was here from the onset. If only injuries didn’t force the Flyers to cycle through five goaltenders before turning to their prized prospect. If only 33-year-old Brian Elliott’s offseason surgically-repaired lower body held up and everything went according to plan. But here we are, and this is where the Flyers are.

The Flyers on Monday rung off their season-high fourth straight win, a 3-1 decision over the Jets (see observations). It served as a reminder of just how much has changed in the seven weeks since the Jets mopped the dreary streets of Winnipeg with the Flyers, the second game of a five-game trip that began with a 6-2 win in Buffalo and ended with Dave Hakstol’s firing.

In reality, the Flyers are so far down in the standings that it’s damn near impossible for them to make the playoffs. It’s easy to let the mind wander, after a team effort like Monday’s, after another impressive outing from Hart, where was this three months ago?

Goaltending, as historically decayed as it’s been, wasn’t the No. 1 reason the Flyers fired their general manager, then their AGM and assistant coach and then, eventually, Hakstol. But it is the chief reason why they’re showing glimpses of their potential.

Hart has stabilized the Flyers’ crease and his performance Monday was just another in a string of games that has us no longer questioning whether he belongs. He does.

“If I’m surprised? Yes, I am,” Claude Giroux said. “You’re not supposed to be a 20-year-old and play the way he’s playing. … I don’t think he knows how to panic.”

The latest chapter of The Legend of Carter Hart entails a 31-save showing against a Jets team that averages 3.41 goals, sixth best in the NHL. Hart allowed one goal Monday, and it was a blemish that no goalie stood a chance at stopping. There were a bushel of quality saves from Hart, perhaps none better than his post-to-post robbery of Mark Scheifele shorthanded near the end of the first period.

Hart, after his 13th career start, sports a .922 save percentage and is the first Flyers goalie to record a four-game winning streak before his 21st birthday. Since Jan. 5, he owns an NHL-most 260 saves, a 2.39 goals-against average and a 5-2-1 record.

“I feel comfortable at this level,” Hart said. “I think after the first couple of games, my nerves were just crazy. After that, I kind of just realized, ‘Hey, it’s another game. The boards are the same, the ice is the same, just got to go out and play.’”

Some things are worth the wait. Some myths you have to confirm with your own eyes. Some things are hard to screw up unless you’re Edmonton. It’s easy to look at what has unfolded over the past four months and say Hart should have been here since Game 1.

That’s not how this season has played out. Hart very well may have needed those 17 games with the Phantoms before his NHL call-up. He figured out the AHL quickly, and by circumstance, found himself in South Philadelphia faster than anyone anticipated.

With the Flyers attempting to figure out their identity going forward into the next stage of whatever this is, Hart is oozing with confidence, and it's impacting everyone else. 

It’s as if when the stakes get higher, there’s another level inside of Hart that breaks free. There remains so much untapped potential that it's exciting to see what's to come.

We keep telling ourselves there will be bumps in the road. There sure will be. It’s part of the process. But 13 games into Hart’s young NHL career, the hype that followed him in junior, on the international stage, in Lehigh Valley, seems very real.

Hart might actually be the goalie that sheds the Flyers’ label of Goaltending Graveyard.

Only time will tell.

“To be honest, probably better,” said Phil Varone, who played with Hart in Lehigh Valley. “It’s not easy for anyone to transition to pro, especially for a goaltender. He’s been phenomenal. It’s more than what I saw in the American League. He deserves to be here.”

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Morgan Frost sets the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on fire

Morgan Frost sets the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on fire

It didn't take long for a Flyers prospect to put their stamp on the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, and what an introduction it was.

Morgan Frost on Wednesday registered a hat trick and an assist in the first 21 minutes and 50 seconds of Team Canada's 14-0 shellacking of Denmark.

Frost finished the game's final 38:50 with a disappointing one assist. Still, it was a heck of a debut for Frost on the world junior stage — three goals and two assists.

https://twitter.com/davidnestico200/status/1078109474257293312

The trajectory of Frost's development since the Flyers drafted him with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft is quite astonishing, especially when we look back to draft night when most were caught off-guard by the selection.

Despite torching the OHL last season, even before the rosters were finalized, Frost didn't make the cut for Team Canada for the 2018 World Junior Championship. Canada didn't need him as it won gold, but that just shows the talent level Hockey Canada has.

This season, however, Frost made the cut, and he immediately made an impact. What an exciting prospect.

Isaac Ratcliffe, whom the Flyers drafted eight picks after Frost in 2017, reacted to Frost's world junior debut accordingly.

But, perhaps, we should seriously prepare for this.

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Future Flyers Report: The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship primer

christinadaly_joelfarabee_jayobrien_flyers.jpg
Christina Daly | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Future Flyers Report: The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship primer

Happy holidays and welcome to one of the most exciting weeks in junior hockey. The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship kicks off Wednesday in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

The 10-team, 11-day tournament runs through Jan. 5, 2019, and offers hockey fans a glimpse into the future with the best junior players from around the world participating.

For Flyers fans, the world juniors have been especially must-see viewing in recent years. While the past three weeks have brought major change throughout the organization, this year’s tournament is no different. Flyers fans will have plenty to watch over the next 11 days.

Carter Hart and Team Canada won the 2018 WJC. Hart, of course, is with the Flyers now. The Flyers have seven players in this year’s games. Let’s get you ready for the 2019 tournament. 

Team USA

The Americans are the team fans will want to pay most attention to as they feature four Flyers prospects — forwards Joel Farabee, Jay O’Brien, Noah Cates and defenseman Jack St. Ivany.

Cates is a 2017 fifth-round pick while Farabee, O’Brien and St. Ivany are 2018 draft picks. All four have chosen the NCAA route. The Flyers had no prospects on the 2018 U.S. team.

Over the summer, we profiled Farabee (Boston University), O’Brien (Providence College) and Cates (Minnesota-Duluth). St. Ivany is in his freshman campaign at Yale University.

This season, Farabee has 11 points in 16 games; O’Brien has two points in 10 games and has dealt with injuries; Cates has seven points in 16 games; and St. Ivany, eight points in 12 games.

Team Canada

After not cracking the 2018 roster, Morgan Frost will represent Canada this year, and it should come as no surprise. Frost has been one of the best junior players over the past two seasons.

Frost, this season, is third in the OHL in scoring with 58 points, scoring 1.81 points per game, which is also third in the league. He has 22 points in his last 10 games with Sault Ste. Marie.

Team Sweden

Sweden features two Flyers prospects: defenseman Adam Ginning and goaltender Samuel Ersson, both 2018 draft picks. Ginning is a 6-foot-4 stay-at-home defenseman who has four points in 25 games this season with Linköping HC of the SHL. Ersson is having a pretty solid campaign with Västerås IK of the Allsvenskan, posting a .941 save percentage in 17 games.

How to watch

The NHL Network (NHLN) in the United States and TSN in Canada will broadcast the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Here’s a schedule for Teams USA, Canada and Sweden.

Team USA

Dec. 26: vs. Slovakia, 6:30 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 28: vs. Kazakhstan, 10:30 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 29: vs. Sweden, 10:30 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 31: vs. Finland, 10:30 p.m. — NHLN

Team Canada

Dec. 26: vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. — NHLN (in progress)
Dec. 27: vs. Switzerland, 8 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 29: vs. Czech Republic, 8 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 31: vs. Russia, 8 p.m. — NHLN

Team Sweden

Dec. 26: vs. Finland, 10:30 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 27: vs. Slovakia, 6:30 p.m. —airing Dec. 28, 8 a.m. on NHLN
Dec. 29: vs. United States, 10:30 p.m. — NHLN
Dec. 31: vs. Kazakhstan, 6:30 p.m. — airing Jan. 1, 8 a.m. on NHLN

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