Flyers wisely leaning on Carter Hart as a mentor for backup goalies

Flyers, Carter Hart (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Flyers, Carter Hart (Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports) /

The most stressful job in professional sports is a major league pitcher, an NFL quarterback, or a goalie in the NHL. While each sport is a team sport, all eyes on are on you when you are playing one of these positions. And whether right or wrong, the success or failure of a team is often attributed to one of these players.

Whenever you are young, stories start to rise about the young phenom pitcher, the Heisman trophy-winning QB, or the goalie from Canada/Russia/Slovakia who has been killing it in the juniors. Some of these guys become the next Steve Carlton, Jalen Hurts, or Carter Hart. But there are also those who become the next Spencer Howard, Bobby Hoying, or Maxime Ouellet. Are any Philly fans out there shuddering?

When Carter Hart made his debut during 2018-19, the plan was for him to “season up” in the AHL. He was just 20 years old and had still been playing in the juniors. But the 2018-19 season happened where the Flyers had played a record eight goalies (click here if you can name them all!).

Carter Hart has developed into a mentor for the Philadelphia Flyers

Hart led the team with 31 starts. However, he also could rely on veteran goalie Brian Elliott for guidance. For the next two seasons, Elliott would be a mentor for Hart. Last year, the Flyers turned to veteran backstop Martin Jones to fill a similar role.

But as the salary cap crunched the team this offseason, the Flyers were kind of stuck. They couldn’t go out and get a veteran goaltender who would be cheap. Instead of overpaying someone to ride the bench this year and start every so often, the Flyers put all their hopes and trust in Hart.

Instead of Hart being mentored by a former star goalie, he is the mentor. The Flyers had signed a trio of young goalies this year to be in net. The first was Russian standout Ivan Fedotov.  However, Russia got into a war with neighboring Ukraine, didn’t do so well, and then accused Fedotov of going AWOL. So, with him being detained somewhere in Russia, the Flyers had to turn to two relatively untested goalies.

The first was AHL goalie Felix Sandstrom. Sandstrom has played well enough in the minors to earn a shot to play in the NHL. Sandstrom was called up at the end of last year when Hart was sidelined with an injury. On a last-place team, he went 0-4.

Even this year, he has only one career win in eight starts. His GAA is 3.37 and his save percentage is .888. While those aren’t great numbers, they are what you would expect from a veteran backup. For a 26-year-old goalie who is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie, those aren’t terrible.

The other was Samuel Ersson. The 23-year-old Swedish goalie, just like Sandstrom, had a baptism by fire last week in Carolina. He was blitzed by a first-place team, got removed after giving up 5 goals, but then re-entered the game after Hart was injured. However, upon his return, he was a brick wall and did not give up a single goal.

Hart is still the primary goalie of the Flyers and will be the goalie of the future for this team. However, it is nice to see that he can step up into the role of a veteran goalie and help to encourage and work with his backups; teaching them what he knows. It shows the growth and maturity in Hart that we are looking for. While he still is “a kid” in NHL terms, he is showing leadership that is far beyond his years.