After an impressive rookie year, Carter Hart is expected to be the Flyers’ No. 1 goalie this season.
Not so fast, general manager Chuck Fletcher said earlier this week.
Fletcher loves Hart’s upside, loves his promising future, and the skill he brings to the game’s most important position.
But he said the 21-year-old Hart will have to beat out veteran Brian “Moose” Elliott in training camp, which will begin Sept. 13 in Voorhees, before he can be declared the Flyers’ No. 1 goaltender entering the season. Fletcher said he anticipates the No. 1 goalie playing 50-55 of the 82 games.
“But whoever can do the job, I’ll be happy. They’re both capable of doing it,” Fletcher said. “They get along well, and they both have very strong work ethics and are talented goaltenders. I think it’s a good combination. Carter obviously has lots of upside and a bright future, and Brian Elliott is such a highly competitive veteran guy who has played very well when he’s been healthy. Knock on wood, he’s healthy right now and feeling great.
“We like our tandem, and I think we’re comfortable with either guy.”
Elliott, 34, hindered by core-muscle and hip injuries over the previous two seasons, arrived at the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees early and has been on the ice daily this week. Hart, who had a 2.83 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 31 games last season, is expected to arrive this weekend.
“Brian’s feeling great, and he’s had a great summer,” Fletcher said. “It’s the first summer in a while where he’s been healthy and has been able to train. I think it’s been shown, particularly the last couple seasons, you really need two goalies to play at a high level over parts of the season to have success.
"We like our tandem, and we like our depth in goal. Carter’s going to have a great career. I think he’s going to be a very good goalie for a long time, but there’s still work to be done. I know he’s ready for it. We’ll just see how things play out at camp.”
It’s been a great summer for Elliott and his family. Their second son, Eddie, was born July 31. In addition, the goaltender feels “as healthy as can be right now” after injuries limited him to just 26 games last season. He had a 2.96 GAA and .907 save percentage.
“Last year, it was just a battle to get back on the ice after surgeries in the summer [of 2018],” he said after competing in an informal scrimmage Wednesday. “Now, I’ve had a good summer of training and rehab, and it’s definitely a different feeling than last year. I definitely feel I have an opportunity to help the team win a lot of games. I texted Carter the other night and he’s coming in soon, and I’m excited to get going with him as well.”
Elliott isn’t hung up on a No. 1 or No. 2 goaltending designation.
“I’ve always approached every season that I’m going to play a lot of games,” he said. “Labels never mattered to me. When it comes down to it, you get put into a game and you perform. That’s what it all comes down to, and usually if you’re winning a lot of games, then you’re playing a lot of games.”
If Hart beats out Elliott and gets most of the starts, will it be difficult for the veteran goalie to play, say, only 25-27 games?
“You take the good with the bad, and whatever role you find yourself in, you have to come with a positive attitude,” Elliott said. “You do what you can to make this team a great team in this league. At this point in my career, I want to win and I want to be in the playoffs. Whatever happens happens, but I’m going to try my best to play a lot of good hockey and win a lot of games this year.”
Elliott, who was pleased the Flyers added some “defensive defensemen” in the offseason, says he and Hart have a “teammate relationship” and are there for one another.
“Everybody wants to play a lot of minutes and everybody has to accept times in the season where you’re not going to play as much,” he said. “It’s just how you look at it. You can’t whine or be a baby about things. If you’re not playing, you work harder and try to get in. You have to be a good teammate.”
The NHL Network will air Behind the Glass: Philadelphia Flyers Training Camp, a four-part series that will be shown Sept. 25, Sept. 30, Oct. 7, and Oct. 14. … Veterans Matt Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Scott Laughton are at camp early. A solid backup goalie is needed because the Flyers play 17 sets of back-to-back games.