Flyers

Just a teenager, Carter Hart already mentally fit for Flyers' future

Just a teenager, Carter Hart already mentally fit for Flyers' future

VOORHEES, N.J. — The last time Carter Hart recalls becoming irritated on the ice, he was 10 years old. He was in his first year of playing goaltender after previously playing forward.

His dad, John Hart, was his coach and his current sports psychologist, John Stevenson, was then his goalie coach. What transpired may have resembled a more PG version of this.

“This one kid kept crashing into my crease,” Hart said, “so my dad was on the bench coaching and he’s just like, ‘Just give it to this kid.’ So I just started blockering him.

“I actually didn’t know to blocker a kid, they consider it a weapon [and it’s] a five-game suspension. So I got a five-game suspension when I was 10 years old.”

Eight years later, Hart finds himself as one of the most anticipated goaltending prospects the Flyers have ever had, perhaps even more than the person who drafted him, Ron Hextall.

There was Pete Peeters in the late 1970s and Pelle Lindbergh in the ‘80s. Hextall, of course, in the late ‘80s. The Flyers’ history of drafting goalies is an urban legend.

Not many swooned over the likes of Dominic Roussel and Neil Little.

Hart is a different breed of goaltender. The Flyers made him the first goalie drafted in 2016 when they selected him 48th overall. He won the CHL Goaltender of the Year his draft year.

Last season, he posted superior numbers but didn’t recapture his crown. Owen Sound’s Michael McNiven won the title. Politics was likely involved. No goalie has ever won it twice.

Still, Hart won the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Goaltender of the Year for the second consecutive season and was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week.

When sports psychologist and an 18-year-old come up in the same sentence, it may carry a negative connotation. Some may trigger the alarms. It shouldn’t, especially for a goalie.

Mental toughness is as essential to goaltending as hand-eye coordination is to hitting a baseball. If any conclusion can be drawn from Hart having one, it should be positive. 

Stevenson is a registered psychologist based in Edmonton, Alberta. He runs Zone Performance Psychology with his wife, Jaci Stevenson, and is a former scout for the Oilers.

The relationship between Hart and Stevenson goes back to when Hart was 10 when he was encouraged by his dad to blocker the kid crashing his crease. Stevenson was originally his goalie coach before transitioning into psychology full-time. Hart describes himself as laid-back whose “energy levels have dropped” in the eight years since. On the ice, he carries a calm demeanor — he doesn’t get mad and doesn’t consider himself to be vocal.

Perhaps some tricks he’s applicated from working with Stevenson, who also works with Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner. As a former goalie coach, Stevenson would try to get in Hart’s head to mess with him, according to Hart, which taught the Sherwood Park, Alberta, native to control what he can control.

“I talk to him on a regular basis,” Hart said Friday of Stevenson. “I’ve learned a lot on the mental side of things. The mental game is huge. It’s probably 90 percent of the position, really. If you believe you can do it, you can. That’s the mindset you have to have, you have to believe in yourself. You really have to believe in yourself and trust everything that you do.”

Holtby has been working with Stevenson since he was 15 years old. The Capitals’ goaltender told The Washington Post in 2015 that he didn’t realize how important Stevenson has been to him in his professional life until his first year away from him.

“That’s when I really found out how crucial that experience I had with him was,” he told the Post. “Kind of take it for granted when it’s right there at your fingertips, and once it’s gone, you have to start doing it on your own. It makes it harder, but you learn it even more.”

While Holtby and Hart share the same psychologist, Holtby isn’t the goalie Hart admires most, though he did call Holtby “one of the most mentally tough guys in the business.” Hart said he’s met Holtby a few times through Stevenson, and Holtby texted him after the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships. The goalie he models his game after is Carey Price.

“He’s very efficient,” Hart said of Price. “He’s one of the best skaters in the game. He makes things simple and makes difficult saves look easy. I really admire the way he skates. That’s one of the biggest things for me is being a good skater. If you can’t skate, you can’t play.

“You have to be an elite-level skater to play in the NHL. … I think Price is the most elite skater in the league.”

Hart turns 19 on Aug. 13 and is not eligible for the AHL. It’s either one more year in Everett or breaking training camp with the Flyers. “Obviously, it doesn’t happen often for 19-year-old goalies,” he said. That’s his goal, but the numbers game dictates his October destination. Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are the Flyers’ goalies for the next two years.

In 2016-17, Hart posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games last season with the Silvertips. He led the WHL in goals-against average (1.99), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (nine). He had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 38 seconds during the record season.

After his season ended in Everett, Hart joined the Lehigh Valley Phantoms during AHL playoffs largely as a third goalie with Anthony Stolarz injured. Then Alex Lyon suffered an injury in Game 2 of their first-round series with the Hershey Bears. Hart found himself on the bench backing up Martin Ouellette for Game 3. The Phantoms rode Ouellette for Games 4 and 5 with Mark Dekanich backing up. Lehigh Valley lost in five games.

Hart never played.

“I thought maybe against Hershey when I backed up, maybe see what happens,” he said.

Hextall drafted his fifth goalie in his fourth draft last month as Flyers general manager, selecting Russian netminder Kirill Ustimenko in the third round. With Ustimenko in the fold, the Flyers now have nine goalies in the organization.

“It doesn’t really matter. It’s just goalie depth,” Hart said. “There’s nothing wrong with having goalie depth because you never know what happens. The position of goaltending can be tough and tough on the body. … It’s a long year. Seventy-two games in the WHL, 76 games in the American League and obviously 82 in The Show.

“It doesn't bother me. Just got to worry about yourself.”

Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Senators' Brady Tkachuk fined maximum allowable amount for crosscheck on Flyers' Scott Laughton

Suffice it to say Scott Laughton got the best of the Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

He was the first star in the Flyers' 4-3 victory, scored the game-winning goal during the third period, added an assist, stood up for his teammates and got under the skin of Ottawa forward Brady Tkachuk.

So much so that Tkachuk went after Laughton, crosschecking the 25-year-old forward in the back and jumping him during the final minute of regulation. The NHL reacted quickly to the play, fining Tkachuk $2,486.56, the maximum allowable under the CBA.

Following his third-period marker, Laughton had words for the Senators' bench. He was fired up, especially after Ottawa's hits on Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee, which led to some fights. Laughton could not partake in the dropping of the gloves because he recently returned following surgery on a broken finger, which is still healing.


I knew it was coming. It’s part of the game when you do that stuff and chirp the bench, you know it’s going to come. I just can’t drop my gloves right now with my finger and everything. I’ve got some padding there so once I do that, I guess it’s a penalty or something. That’s just the way it went.

- Laughton

But Laughton still had the backs of his teammates. He was physical throughout, especially after the first-period hits on Konecny and Farabee. He also allowed his game to do the talking.

Laughton has four goals in his last six contests and the Flyers are 6-1-1 since his return following a 13-game absence because of the finger injury.

Would Laughton have liked to fight?

"Yeah," he said.

He did plenty enough.

Tkachuk's crosscheck and check to the league are proof of Laughton's work.

 

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Multiple fights, a potential costly injury to Travis Konecny and a different kind of Flyers win over Senators

Multiple fights, a potential costly injury to Travis Konecny and a different kind of Flyers win over Senators

Updated: 4:22 p.m.

BOX SCORE 

The win was ugly.

But a really good one for the Flyers.

A lesser opponent tried to work them up, throw them off, and the Flyers still found a way to pull out a 4-3 decision over the Senators on Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

They did so while losing their best player during the first period and despite being outshot 30-21.

Scott Laughton was superb yet again with a multi-point game. He was physical when the game became physical and he scored the game-winning goal, his fourth marker in the last six games.

The Flyers (17-8-5) showed they can win when they’re far from their best, which is a good sign. They are 12-3-4 with 28 points since Nov. 1. The Capitals entered the day with an NHL-leading 28 points over that span.

The Senators (12-17-1) have lost six of their last seven games.

• The biggest storyline to come from Saturday’s game was Travis Konecny leaving the ice and never returning following a crushing hit by Mark Borowiecki in the first period.

The fights then broke out with Jakub Voracek and Joel Farabee doing the honors (see story).

The 22-year-old Konecny already had a goal in the game and has been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through two months of this season.

Konecny was presumably getting checked for a concussion. If he were to miss any time, it would be a significant loss for the Flyers, who are 2-4-4 when Konecny goes scoreless in a game.

After the game, head coach Alain Vigneault said Konecny had an upper-body injury and the Flyers would have further updates Monday.

• Ivan Provorov kept on humming Saturday, matching his goal total of seven from last season by sending home a third-period missile to put the Flyers ahead 3-2 (see highlights).

The Flyers are 15-5-4 since Oct. 21. Over that stretch, Provorov has six goals, nine assists and a plus-10 mark.

• The Senators’ game-tying goal in the second period was an inexcusable one to give up by the Flyers. Carter Hart and Shayne Gostisbehere misread each other terribly, which allowed Anthony Duclair to swoop in for a shorthanded marker.

Both Hart and Gostisbehere need to be more aware in that situation.

The good news is Gostisbehere continues to push offensively and Hart has been awfully good since Nov. 1 — really, all season for that matter.

Gostisbehere has three goals in five games following a three-game benching. The 26-year-old defenseman had one goal in his previous 22 games.

Hart finished with 27 saves.

• Morgan Frost picked up his first point in eight games on Konecny’s goal.

Before the game, Vigneault expressed his confidence in the 20-year-old center who is centering the Flyers’ top line.

The 2017 first-round pick deserves some patience just like a lot of young players.

• Next week, the Flyers open a three-game road trip, which features matchups with the Avalanche on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Wild on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP) and the Jets on Sunday (5 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).

 

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