2. Can Carter Hart play his way into a Jennings Trophy?
Carter Hart is not only the Philadelphia Flyers’ best prospect, (arguably) their best player, and easily the key to any sort of championship run that may be in the cards, but at 22-years-old, he’s going to be really good for a very long time.
Sure, some, like the NHL Network, have used the offseason to slander Hart by keeping him off their “top-10 goalies in the NHL” list, but something tells me he’ll be undeniable sooner than later.
By sooner, could we be talking about the first half of 2021?
In 2019-20, Hart had a 91.4 saves percentage on an average of 2.42 GAA. While those numbers aren’t particularly impressive from a macro level, as they rank 29th and 10th overall in the grand scheme of the NHL, numbers don’t always tell the full story.
Sure, Hart had some bad outings last season, with nine contests where he surrendered four or more goals, but he also had 17 games where he allowed one or fewer games, including three shutouts between the regular season and the playoffs.
If Hart can sure up some of his inconsistencies in his third season with the Flyers, it’ll go a long way to keeping the team potent in their second season under Alain Vigneault – which is important, considering Philly’s D will be down a pretty considerable cog after the surprise retirement of Matt Niskanen.
Now granted, the Flyers do have options to fill the D1 spot next to Ivan Provorov. Phil Myers has been given the first nod to replace the 34-year-old right-handed defenseman in camp, and the Flyers went out to sign away Erik Gustafsson from the Calgary Flames for $3 million, but neither is going to replace Niskanen, not one-for-one at least.
No, if the Flyers are going to remain one of the best teams in the NHL, make a deep run in the playoffs, and build upon an impressive 2019-20 campaign, they’ll need Carter Hart to play like a Jennings Trophy finalist.