Garry Davidson

Flyers' turmoil won't hinder Carter Hart's development

Flyers' turmoil won't hinder Carter Hart's development

For a lot of 20-year-olds, the environment would eat them up.

Carter Hart isn't your average 20-year-old.

He's precocious and together. He's different, the exact reason why he's here already and performing for the Flyers.

So why worry and send him away?

The Flyers are losing at a perturbing clip with performances that aren't exactly conducive for goalie success. A winless skid has ballooned to eight games, patience is being tested and frustrations are growing, possibly boiling into more drastic change (see story).

With the Feb. 25 trade deadline getting closer and closer, the Flyers entered Wednesday 30th among 31 NHL teams at 15-22-6 and 36 points. The club is allowing the league's second-most goals per game (3.63), owns a minus-37 goal differential and has been outscored 96-61 since Nov. 13, a stretch in which the Flyers are 6-15-5.

But Hart is the one who actually breathed some life into the Flyers. The team has won consecutive games just once since Nov. 13 and it happened in Hart's first and second career starts. His record is starting to take a hit at 2-4-1 as the Flyers haven't helped him much offensively, but he has played well enough in all but one game.

If his play has been fine, then the concern is the other factors — losing, frustration, etc. — possibly becoming a detriment to the development of Hart, deemed the franchise's future in net.

During a May 2018 phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Garry Davidson, the general manager of Hart's junior team the Everett Silvertips, described Hart in a way perfectly applicable to the current situation.

People that haven't met him and don't work with him day in and day out just see what he does on the ice, but for me it's that whole maturity and professionalism that he's already completely grasped. Because there are guys his age that are going to be going to the pro game that are going to have to learn all of those things and some of them will never learn it and will come up short. But he's got that already going for him.

There's been no sense of the Flyers' adverse setting becoming too much for the 2016 second-round pick in his first year of professional hockey.

"I think as long as he's playing well, I don't think that should bother him," Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. "Obviously he's thrilled about the opportunity."

Hart prepares the same way through highs and lows. He keeps everything in perspective. He makes adjustments. Working with a sports psychologist since he was a teenager has helped him always see positives.

Following a 3-0 loss Monday in which Hart could hold off the Blues for only so long, the rookie said he doesn't feel like he has to be perfect through the Flyers' struggles.

"I'm not really thinking it like that," Hart said.

"A lot of these games here, we're one or two steps [from it] going our way … we're not far off. I know it doesn’t look like that, but if you look at our most recent games, we're not far off. There are some games where we definitely deserved better fates and I think we just have to keep working, stick to our game and just compete."

Hart will continue to do that. He should be here until he shows us he can't.

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Flyers prospect Carter Hart says so long to Twitter, hello to pro life

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By the day, even by the hour, Carter Hart looks and sounds more and more like a professional.

He's worked with a sports psychologist to tackle the mentality of goaltending.

He's noticeably stronger and his dietary habits are impressive.

His hockey résumé is in tip-top condition.

He turns 20 years old in August and will no longer look like a pro in 2018-19.

He will be one — and already with some added preparation.

"I actually just deleted my Twitter the other day because there's no point in all that," Hart said a week and a half ago at Flyers development camp. "You see a lot of news and stuff, and whether it's positive or negative, you just don't want to hear that stuff. For me, I just try to stay away from it and worry about what I'm doing and where I'm at right now."

A wise move by a kid who exudes wisdom, a precociousness that has Flyers fans gaga over his future, which is nearing. The 2016 second-round draft pick seems destined for his first AHL season but will fight for an NHL job come September.

"I want to be a Philadelphia Flyer next year," Hart said. "That's my goal."

At the junior level, he showed he's ready for his next challenge. He set records with the WHL's Everett Silvertips and put up a staggering 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in 2017-18.

While those numbers are nice and shiny, Hart will be the first to point out the stark difference between junior and pro hockey. 

"In juniors, you have guys that are 16 years old that some of them are just hitting puberty now," Hart said. "In pros, you're dealing with men. So you're going from playing with boys to men, so obviously it's going to be a jump up but I think you just have to adjust and adapt to everything."

If there's a prospect to bank on doing so, it's Hart. The readiness factor goes beyond the numbers with the netminder.

"People that haven't met him and don't work with him day in and day out just see what he does on the ice, but for me, it's that whole maturity and professionalism that he's already completely grasped," Everett general manager Garry Davidson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia in May. "Because there are guys his age that are going to the pro game that are going to have to learn all of those things and some of them will never learn it and will come up short. But he's got that already going for him."

Hart will use it throughout the summer and especially during the fall when he's back in Voorhees, New Jersey, for training camp. He's aware of the situation all around him — from the number of goalies in the club's picture to Flyers fans calling his name.

Aware, but not focused on it.

"I just have to worry about doing my job and going out there and playing and performing," he said. "Coming to camp in September, my job is to just stop the puck. The only thing that really matters is what I think of myself. I can't worry about what the staff thinks, what management thinks, what other people think, what fans think — I just have to worry about what I think as soon as I step out on that ice."

Hart has that down.

And he understands his life will soon be different.

"You're going to be on your own pretty much completely for laundry, eating, groceries," Hart said. "I've talked to a lot of people and that's the biggest transition from junior to pro is not having a billet. I know my billet Parker Fowlds is probably the best there is."

Fowlds won't miss Hart on Twitter.

"He doesn't even know what Twitter is," the goalie said with a laugh.

Perfect.

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Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Are Flyers next? How Carter Hart won over his junior GM

Carter Hart approached Garry Davidson with a message.

For that brief moment, Davidson didn't have to answer his phone, hang up and then wonder.

The general manager's decision was made — and by the teenager who sought him out like a 30-year-old pro.

"Had he not come in and pushed those buttons," Davidson said, "who knows what I would have done."

The Everett Silvertips' 2016-17 season had just ended in the second round of the WHL playoffs. Davidson, the team's GM, was fielding trade call after trade call regarding his goalie.

It felt like everyone wanted a piece of Hart's final go-around in junior hockey.

"In the offseason this time last year, I was already being approached by several teams," Davidson said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "'Would you move Hart?' There were probably six, seven teams that came after us. As a GM, I had to weigh everything out to see how it might work out."

Until Hart, the Flyers' exciting goalie prospect, had a word with him.

Hart was an eighth-round Bantam draft pick of Everett at 14 years old before he signed his WHL educational contract at 15. He eventually turned himself into a record-setting junior goalie and wanted Davidson to know he had goals of finishing what they started.

"Carter came to me and said, 'Hey, I'd love to do something here with my team and my teammates,'" Davidson said. "He came in at 15 and didn't play obviously a lot but was around at 15 and then a regular member at 16 when he was allowed to stay here. When he came in and we had that discussion, then I dug in and tried to see what I could do to make us better."

Hart's plea and the circumstances offered revealing aspects of exactly why the 19-year-old has Flyers fans giddily awaiting his arrival. The competition after Hart's services speaks volumes about his ability in net; yet maybe even more impressive was the loyalty to his team and the maturity behind it.

"That's one of the big things that Carter has always been, old for his years," Davidson said. "He's all about doing things, day in and day out, the right way."

Davidson never imagined what Hart ultimately became.

But he saw the makeup.

"I always liked Carter because I thought he was athletic but I always liked his composure," Davidson said. "He played with a confidence and not on emotion.

"We had a pretty good goalie here, so we just signed [Hart] and said he'll be our No. 2 guy. He came in here at 16 and a month in he sat in my office and said, 'You know what, I think I can be the best goalie here and I'm going to prove it to you.' Not in a cocky way, but just in a confident way. And subsequently he went on to do that."

In more ways than one.

The Flyers' 2016 second-round draft pick became the first goaltender to win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL's top goalie) three times, while his 26 career shutouts are tied for the most in Canadian Hockey League history. His WHL-leading 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage this season make him a favorite to win CHL Goalie of the Year for the second time, something no netminder has ever done. He also rewarded Davidson by leading the Silvertips to the 2018 WHL Final, where they lost in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

While all the accolades surprised Davidson, the success didn't. Not with a kid as detail-oriented as Hart, who with time, grew into his body at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

"He made a comment in our exit meeting the other day, 'Oh, we went out last night and I really actually enjoyed a double-patty burger,' and a whole bunch of foods that he wouldn't normally eat," Davidson said with a laugh. "Because he takes care of every aspect — his rest, his eats, his diet, his off-ice workouts. But that's Carter."

Hart's game will test the pro ranks in 2018-19 as he turns 20 years old in August. Given the big club's situation, a season in the AHL seems more than likely.

"That's a decision the Flyers are going to make," Davidson said, advising patience. "It's also a decision Carter will make because it'll depend on his performance and what he does between now and the start of the NHL season in October."

Long odds or not, Hart already has one thing going for him.

He knows how to make a GM believe.