Flyers

Is Flyers' Carter Hart entering Calder Trophy conversation?

Is Flyers' Carter Hart entering Calder Trophy conversation?

If he continues to keep this up, the Calder Trophy may be Carter Hart’s trophy by the end of the season.

Of course there are still two months remaining in the regular season and Hart likely wouldn’t be one of three finalists for the NHL’s top rookie if the voting was held today, but the 20-year-old goaltender is making a remarkably strong push heading down the stretch run.

Hart has made hockey fun again, not just for the teammates he now shares a locker room with, but also for an entire city that was starting to look at this Flyers team as an afterthought this season.

“I don’t want to say you’re expecting him to fail, but you just find it hard to believe that somebody his age can come in and do what he’s been able to do so far,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said Monday night after a 2-1 win over the Canucks (see observations).

Hart has been the Flyers' catalyst during an impressive eight-game winning streak.

The rookie has proceeded to rip off seven straight wins, a feat no goaltender under the age of 21 has accomplished since Carey Price in 2008. If Hart wins his next start (likely Saturday’s game against the Ducks), he’ll match the standard established by Quebec’s Jocelyn Thibault 24 years ago.

On the same day Hart was recognized as the NHL’s second star of the week, he immediately began working on this week’s honors with a season-high 41-save performance Monday (see highlights).

“He’s been remarkable,” Sean Couturier said. “That save at the end — he’s making some miracles out there. It’s nice to have him back there, you know he can steal one.”

It was the save on Nikolay Goldobin during Vancouver’s third-period power play that fans were left talking about on their commute home, and a save that preserved another one-goal win.

“I got a front-row seat to that,” Scott Laughton said. “He dove over there and made a great save and he just gives us life and makes a big save when we need it.” 

Hart upstaged the Calder Trophy front-runner Elias Pettersson, holding Vancouver’s 20-year-old sniper off the scoresheet, while improving his overall record to 10-5-1. Hart’s 471 saves in his first 16 NHL starts are more than any other goaltender since his call-up from Lehigh Valley on Dec. 18.

Three years ago, it was a "Ghost" who took the NHL by storm, lifting the Flyers' spirits following a dismal start to the season. Shayne Gostisbehere set an NHL record for a rookie defenseman with a 15-game point streak, and his spark carried the Flyers into the postseason as he eventually finished second in Calder voting to Chicago’s Artemi Panarin.

Hart is having that same affect, and light years ahead of where you’d expect a typical 20-year-old rookie.

“He’s a humble guy,” Jakub Voracek said. “Comes to work every day and he’s giving us a chance to win the game every single night — and that’s what you want from a goalie. He’s playing like he’s 28 years old.”

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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Flyers NHL trade deadline 2020: A boost from Ducks center Derek Grant

Leading up to the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we looked at potential targets on the market and why they may or may not fit the Flyers' plans, including Ducks center Derek Grant.

At 11:30 a.m on deadline day, the Flyers acquired Grant. Below is our original profile of him. 

***

Derek Grant

Age: 29
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Team: Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Scouting report

The well-traveled center has picked an opportune time for a career year. Grant, who is playing for his sixth NHL team, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Grant, who has some positional versatility, possesses the characteristics the Flyers targeted last offseason — quality size, good physicality and strength in puck battles.

He's not highly skilled or an active playmaker, but the fourth-line center leads Anaheim's forwards in shorthanded minutes per game and is solid in the faceoff circle.

Projection

This one checks a lot of boxes.

It would make sense for the Ducks, who are in second-to-last place of the Western Conference, to sell high on Grant's stock. He's an older role player putting up career numbers and can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Grant's cap hit fits the Flyers' plans and he wouldn't block the team's future down the middle given his expiring contract.

The Flyers very well may be happy enough with 21-year-old Connor Bunnaman's play. And if they want more offense, Morgan Frost is heating up at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley (three goals, two assists in last five games). The 2017 first-round pick could take over third-line center duties, while Scott Laughton would give the Flyers tons of depth at fourth-line center.

But if they want more experience and a player enjoying his best offensive season yet, Grant is a nice option. Adding him would likely only require trading a lower-round draft pick.

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