Someday, Carter Hart may be regarded as one of the NHL's best goaltenders.

Someday, Hart may be the Flyers' cornerstone, the guy most responsible for ending their long Stanley Cup drought.

Someday, Hart may be talked about with the reverence used when Bernie Parent's name enters the conversation.


For now, however, the 20-year-old with the impeccable Western Hockey League resume will have to pay his dues, take long bus drives with his Lehigh Valley Phantoms teammates, and fine-tune his game in the American Hockey League.

Just like most of the young goalies who have turned into NHL stars.

Consider: Of the goalies who had the top 10 save percentages in the league last season, only one of them — Marc-Andre Fleury, now with Vegas — went directly from the junior ranks to the NHL. And Fleury played just 22 games with Pittsburgh before returning to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He then spent parts of two seasons in the AHL before being promoted to the Penguins and starting a brilliant NHL career.

Eight of the other nine save-percentage leaders in the NHL last season spent time in the AHL before their NHL careers started. The one exception was Sergei Bobrovsky, but he spent parts of three years in Russia's KHL before arriving in the NHL with the Flyers at age 22.

In other words, Hart is on a time-honored path, one that has him on target to give the Flyers, potentially, a dominating goalie. Finally.

"He's a very confident guy back there," defenseman Shayne Gostsibehere said during training camp."Maybe he can play the puck a little more, but I know it's harder for younger goalies like that. He's going to be a great goalie. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and that's the most important thing."

In the preseason, Hart showed glimpses of the unflappable goalie who dominated the WHL, though he displayed some flaws — and a couple of poor reads — in his final appearance, a 4-2 loss (including an empty-net goal) to the New York Rangers on Thursday.

"I wasn't good enough," Hart said after the defeat. "I have to be better. …The biggest thing for me when things aren't going my way is to just compete. Take a deep breath and compete on all pucks."

He said there were "things I'm going to learn from this experience" and "apply to practices. I'm just gathering these learning experiences and learning from them and then putting them behind me."

Spoken like someone who has been working with a sports psychologist since he was around 11 years old, which happens to be the case with Hart.

Solid preseason

Hart had a 1.87 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in four preseason appearances, topping Flyers goaltenders in both categories.

"It was good to play with some of the older guys and experience that pace and speed of the game — and adjust to the differences from junior to pro," Hart said before being sent to the Phantoms on Sunday. "It's definitely faster and guys shoot harder, and the execution level is definitely a lot higher. … At the junior levels, you have one or two guys on a team who can execute at that pace and speed, but up here, everyone does."

Hart said he felt more comfortable at this year's camp than at previous ones. There was a familiarity with his teammates, and a better understanding of "the pro mindset and the level this game is played at."

He called Lehigh Valley "a great setup" and added that he has to "make the most of every opportunity I get."

"He's a young guy. He will kill it," Gostisbehere said. "He's such a good goaltender. When he gets his chance, I know he'll be ready."

Gostisbehere, then 22, was recalled from the Phantoms on Nov. 14, 2015. The Florida native made the most of it, scoring 17 goals in 64 games with the Flyers that season. His AHL days were over.

If a Flyers goalie falters or is injured and Hart is playing well in the AHL, he might get a call-up this season.

General manager Ron Hextall said in a "perfect world" Hart would hone his craft with the Phantoms this season. "But we don't live in a perfect world. … Sometimes, circumstances dictate as well. We'll see how it goes."

The general manager seemed to be saying that if there needs to be a goalie call-up at some point this season, he would not be averse to giving Hart his first taste of the NHL.

Gostisbehere got a taste early in the 2015-16 season. Now he is one of the league's highest-scoring defensemen.

"It was crazy. It was a fun ride," Gostisbehere said of the promotion to the Flyers three years ago. "If it happens to Hartsy and he gets his opportunity, don't be surprised if he runs away with it, too."

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