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Hart of a Champion: World Junior Team Canada Goaltender Carter Hart Ready to Show the World What He Can Do

By Ryan McCracken on December 21, 2016

Carter Hart was named both the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year last season after finishing with a save percentage of .918 and goals against average of 2.14 – and he's already surpassing those number after his first 24 games this year. (AJ Messier – Hockey Canada Images)

Carter Hart is about to become a household name from the Pacific all the way to the Atlantic.

After starting his season with at the top of the league for save percentage, goals against average and shutouts, the 18-year-old Everett Silvertips goaltender is primed and ready to backstop Team Canada’s bounce-back effort at the World Junior Championship this holiday season, and Tips head coach Kevin Constantine says it’s likely to bring an even stronger game out of the CHL’s reigning goaltender of the year.

“Every extra curricular, being an NHL rookie camp or a tryout camp, or an all-star performance, the Canada-Russia Series or a World Junior Championship, those events are all challenges that without a doubt are beneficial from an improvement standpoint,” said Constantine. “The quickest way to improve athletically is to be challenged. Challenged by competition, challenged by coaches, challenged by yourself, and certainly the competition at this particular event is at a real high level and it makes you improve your game. There’s always a benefit from being able to take part in these.”

The Sherwood Park, Alta. product has yet to dip below a .900 save percentage since joining the league full-time as a 16-year-old in the 2014-15 season, and he’s still managed to better his numbers on a consistent basis. As a rookie, Hart posted a .915 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average — both of which were WHL bests — while sharing time between the posts with Austin Lotz. When Hart inherited the starting position the following year, he firmly placed himself on the radar as one of junior hockey’s greatest goaltenders. Hart doubled his production, logging a 35-23-1-3 record while increasing his save percentage to .918 and cutting his goals against average down to 2.14 to earn dual titles as the WHL and CHL goaltender of the year. Now he’s off to his hottest season yet, cutting his goals against average significantly to 1.85 while pushing his save percentage to .928 through his first 24 contests.

Constantine, who is behind the Silvertip bench for his eighth consecutive season, says it has truly been a pleasure watching Hart develop, not just into the form of a promising NHL prospect, but a reputable young man as well. 

“He’s a great kid and a good goalie so it’s fun. It’s part watching him grow as a goaltender, part watching him grow as a person, as you would with any player you deal with in junior hockey,” he said. “You’re dealing with kids who start with you as 15-year-old boys and leave you as 20-year-old young men. There’s a process of watching all of that, from the goaltending to their growth as a person.”

Hart has cemented himself as a leader in Silvertips system over his tenure. While Hart isn’t the most vocal man in Everett’s dressing room, Constantine says his actions speak far louder than any words could, even if they can be somewhat quirky at times.

“He’s a goalie and like all goalies — and I’m an ex-goalie so I speak from the fraternity — it’s kind of an individual sport within a team game.

So Carter’s got a lot of his own routine and regimen that he goes through that work for him,” said Constantine. “Most of the time that’s with the team or around the team, but then he’s just got some things he does that are unique to goaltenders too, so there are moments when he’s off in his own goalie world.”

Every good goalie — no matter how quirky — needs a strong mentor, and Hart has that man in Shane Clifford. The longstanding Silvertips goaltending coach has been with Hart since day one of his WHL career, and with the team for nine seasons.

Constantine credits a good deal of Hart’s development to the guiding hand of Clifford, who is responsible for grooming a seemingly endless string of strong goaltenders from Everett’s long list of names, like John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks. In fact, most of Clifford’s protégés end up earning NHL draft selections or contracts. Hart — a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers — is no exception.

“You look back at the Silvertips and I don’t think it’s an accident that we’ve had some good goalies, being Mike Wall, Leland Irving, on and on,” said Constantine. “Shane certainly gets credit for a lot of what’s happened in Silvertip goaltending history and he’s made his contributions with Carter also.”

While the U.S. Division-leading Silvertips will face a stiff challenge with Hart’s departure to compete in the World Junior Championship — as well as that of captain and leading defenceman Noah Juulsen — Constantine says he believes the benefits of the experience far outweigh the consequences of their absence.

“We’ll suffer a little bit in the short term but we’ll benefit in the longterm from the experiences those guys will get and from the improvement based on being challenged in their game,” he said, adding Hart has become one of Everett’s most valuable assets. “I can tell you this, our team knows, respects and is thankful about the fact that he’s such a big part of our team. There’s respect there, without a doubt.”

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By Ryan McCracken| December 21, 2016
Categories:  Events
Keywords:  World Juniors

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