Mark it down. At 8:20 p.m. ET on Sept. 17, 2018, at the Wells Fargo Center, goalie Carter Hart made his long-awaited debut for the Philadelphia Flyers.
OK, let’s pump the brakes.
We know it was in a preseason game and against an Islanders squad that had more players destined for the AHL than an NHL roster. However, the most hyped and heralded young player in the organization’s history since Eric Lindros played in his first professional game.
And even though it was during the preseason, the moment was not lost on the fans, who gave Hart a standing ovation when he relieved Michal Neuvirth in the middle of the second period, or the player, who showcased an infectious smile during his postgame interview.
“Yeah, it felt good to get out there and play a real preseason game,” said Hart, who played in the annual Rookie Game exhibition the last two years. “It felt good to get out there and play in front of the home fans and with some of the big boys. It was a lot of fun.”
Thanks to a defense that included three Flyers starters, Hart saw limited action and stopped all 11 shots he faced over the final 29:55 of the game. He moved well in the crease, kept himself in a good position, and looked relatively poised.
“I maybe wasn’t calm at first, but as the game went on, I started to settle in,” said Hart, who wore No. 79. “I thought we did a really good job of eliminating pucks to the outside. They did a really good job of collapsing at the net front.”
Hart has been anointed as the Flyers savior in goal almost since he was drafted in the second round (48th overall) of the 2016 draft and has not disappointed with his performance.
After going 31-6-1 with a minuscule 1.60 goals-against average and .947 save percentage last year with the Everett Silvertips, he was named the Western Hockey League Goalie of the Year, for the second straight year, and Player of the Year.
Despite his lofty junior resume and future No. 1 status, Hart is all but ticketed for the American Hockey League Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he will face much tougher competition than he did in juniors and sharpen his skills.
“Carter continued doing what he’s done through [training] camp,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s been pretty consistent. … he’s not an overactive guy in the net, especially for a young guy. He is very calm and doesn’t make anything look too difficult because he is settled and really good and sound. I think it was a solid performance for him.”
Over the summer, Hart said his goal was to make the Flyers this fall. With Brian Elliott penciled in as the starter, as long as he is healthy, and Neuvirth as the backup, it will be difficult for Hart to achieve his goal.
The more realistic scenario is for Hart to excel with the Phantoms and position himself for a possible call-up to the Flyers in the spring.
Regardless, Hart took his first step toward achieving that goal against the Islanders.
Mark it down.