VOORHEES, N.J. — It didn’t take long for Carter Hart to prove his early jump to the NHL was not just a temporary leap.
He won his first two starts with the Flyers.
Not long after, he ripped off eight straight victories to match Jocelyn Thibault's NHL record of most consecutive wins by a goalie before his 21st birthday.
And he went 13-6-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .924 save percentage over his first 20 starts, sparking hope in a lost 2018-19 season.
Today, Dec. 18, marks the one-year anniversary of Hart’s NHL debut in which he beat the Red Wings, 3-2, at the Wells Fargo Center. In a year, the 2016 second-round pick has become the Flyers’ No. 1 between the pipes, playing like the goalie of the future the franchise has desired for quite some time.
“I’m comfortable here, this is my home away from home,” Hart said Wednesday. “I love playing here and living here in Philly.”
Around mid-February, Hart was told to seek permanent residence.
“That was a pretty cool moment for me,” he said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Alright, you’re here to stay.’”
Oh, and need to find a place … and a bed.
Good thing for Jakub Voracek.
“When he realized he was going to be staying, you don’t want a kid that didn’t make much money to spend so much money on rent,” Voracek said. “I had a free apartment in Old City and nobody was using it, so I just told him to get cable and everything else was there. I went to buy a bed with him. He was a little worried about the price tag, but I was like, ‘That’s the best investment you can make.’ So we went and bought a bed and that was all he needed.”
Voracek made sure they got the bed.
“Well, f---, if it were up to him, he would sleep on the sofa,” Voracek said. “I had to really talk him into it. Like, listen, if you want to spend the money, that’s good money to spend.”
The bed purchase was all part of Hart’s transition to the NHL at 20 years old. He came into professional hockey with impressive preparation and work habits.
But he’s always looking to learn and improve. After all, he’s only 21.
“It’s really important that you manage yourself and your time really wisely with getting enough sleep, eating the right things, staying on top of your physical shape, condition,” Hart said. “I think that’s been a really important part of my game.”
Since Hart’s arrival (or actually since he was drafted), the fans have embraced him.
He has grown to love the tough love.
“Sure, they get on us when we’re not playing well, but as an athlete in a big sports market, what more could you ask for?” Hart said. “They’re loyal and they’re passionate.”
And as much as he has stood out in the crease, Hart has also shined within the community.
“I have a lot of fun doing that, I’m sure a lot of other guys do as well,” he said. “We have the chance to be role models, people look up to us, especially younger kids, the next generation. I think it’s important that you set a good example for the leaders of tomorrow.”
What did Voracek, one of the Flyers’ leaders, charge the humble rookie?
“Thank God he charged me nothing,” Hart said. “He’s an awesome guy and it was a really nice place, too, it was huge. It was just myself in there. Unfortunately he’s selling it this year and I couldn’t even afford it anyways. But no, it was a really nice place.
“Really thankful that he let me stay there last year.”
Voracek was happy to set up Hart in Year 1. It meant the goalie of the future was beginning the present.
“He’s still young, he’s playing unreal since he got here,” Voracek said. “Obviously some ups and downs, but there are a lot more ups than downs. It’s scary to think that he can be way, way better.”
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