We're going to look at six of the NHL's top goaltenders and their timelines before reaching the NHL. Flyers GM Ron Hextall appears to be more conservative with his prospects than we thought, but in the attempt of an honest breakdown, we'll attempt to draw up a potential timeline for when Carter Hart could be minding the net for the Flyers.
The six goalies are Carey Price, Matt Murray, Jonathan Quick, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Cory Schneider and Tuukka Rask. All were drafted and only Rask made his NHL debut with another team. This isn't 100 percent scientific but a glimpse at other goalies' timelines.
Hart is 19 years old and in his final season of junior. He'll turn pro next year at 20. How long he stays in Lehigh Valley is the question. Some goalies take longer than others, and we won't know with Hart until he hits the pro ranks.
There’s the long-term development route such as Schneider. Schneider spent three full seasons in the AHL before becoming a full-time NHLer, though Vancouver had a bona fide No. 1 in Roberto Luongo blocking him.
Then there’s the almost immediate jump from junior to the NHL. For example, Price. Price began the 2007-08 season with Hamilton but found his way to the Canadiens after 10 games in the AHL.
We can look at Quick and Murray, both Stanley Cup-winning goalies who spent at least one season in the AHL before making the jump. With Quick, he spent a year between the ECHL and AHL before leaping to the NHL full-time in December 2008. Murray spent one year in the AHL before joining the Pens in 2015-16 and helping Pittsburgh win its first of back-to-back Cups as a 21-year-old.
Price made the NHL full-time at 20, while Murray, Vasilevskiy and Quick made the jump when they were 21 — Quick was called up one month before turning 22. Rask became a full-timer as a 22-year-old, and Schneider was 24. The average age comes out to 21.5 years.
If we use Price as an outlier, then we can aim for 2019-20 as a starting point for when we could see Hart with the Flyers full-time. It also aligns with the Flyers’ current goalie situation, as both Brian Elliott’s and Michal Neuvirth’s contracts expire after 2018-19.
Hart will be 21 when the 2019-20 campaign begins with one year of AHL experience, and the fact the Flyers currently have no goalies signed for that season, it’s a safe bet that could be the year Hextall is targeting for one of his goalie prospects to make the jump.
An educated guess? We’ll see Hart full-time as a Flyer at some point during the 2019-20 season. Whether that’s at the start or sometime midseason remains to be seen.