Just How Good Was Carter Hart’s Age-21 Season?

Philadelphia fans have been starving for a legitimately great goalie for years; so many of the hopeful contenders of the past were ruined because of sub-replacement goalies *glares at Michael Leighton* that sank the great teams in front of them. Most people would say we finally have the goalie of the future, and most people would be right; Carter Hart was legitimately fantastic this year. Of all the 21 year-old goalies to play in the NHL since 2007, Hart is 2nd in GSAx in all situations (goals saved above expected, a measure of how many goals a goalie saved versus a replacement level player); the only goalie ranked ahead of him was Joonas Korpisalo, who played in a backup role that limited his sample size.

In 2019-2020, Hart was also 6th in GSAx and 6th in dFSv% (the difference between expected save percentage on unblocked shot attempts and actual save percentage on unblocked shot attempts) among all starting goalies at 5v5, which essentially means that if we just look at how much he outperformed his expected results at even strength, he was a top 10 goalie in the league this past year. Personally, I think it’s slightly a stretch to put him in that territory just yet, but Hart deserves to be recognized as a borderline elite player at his position already.

Hart’s 2019-2020 RAPM chart
(via Evolving Hockey)
Sergei Bobrovsky’s age 21 season RAPM
(via Evolving Hockey)
Carey Price’s age 21 season RAPM
(via Evolving Hockey)

It’s fairly safe to conclude that this was the best age 21 season by a goalie since 2001, and it could even be argued that it was the best since Marin Brodeur’s 1993-1994 Calder-winning showing . Hart’s results were dragged down by his struggles with maintaining consistency and playing through injuries, but he largely was excellent for the Flyers and was arguably the best goalie under the age of 25 to function as a starter. This also doesn’t account for his showstopping outing in the 2020 postseason, where he ranked 5th in GSAx and 6th in dFSv% among all goalies despite playing just 14 games.

Now, comparing Hart to every Flyers starter between 2009-2010 and the present (qualifying a starting goalie as playing the majority of the regular season games that year), how does he stack up?

Player Name and SeasonGames PlayedSPAR/GPGSAx (5v5)dFSv% (5v5)
Brian Boucher (2009-2010)33.04-3.15 (50th)-.36 (49th)
Sergei Bobrovsky (2010-2011)54.1613.0 (8th).81 (11th)
Ilya Bryzgalov (2011-2012)59.082.42 (20th).14 (27th)
Ilya Bryzgalov (2012-2013)40.01-7.61 (76th)-.62 (48th)
Steve Mason (2013-2014)61.09-8.16 (78th)-.45 (58th)
Steve Mason (2014-2015)51.1921.09 (2nd)1.31 (9th)
Steve Mason (2015-2016)54.1116.84 (3rd).99 (14th)
Steve Mason (2016-2017)58.05-.92 (50th)-.05 (48th)
Brain Elliott (2017-2018)43.089.92 (8th).74 (21st)
Carter Hart (2018-2019)31.07-8.24 (75th)-.77 (58th)
Carter Hart (2019-2020)43.123.82 (13th).31 (20th)
GSAx and dFSv% ranked among goalies that season; SPAR/GP = standing points above replacement/games played; all stats via Evolving Hockey

Hart had a spectacular season, but he doesn’t begin to compare to the big three years: Steve Mason’s insane 2014-2015, Bob’s rookie year, and Mason’s 2015-2016. I think we often forget how incredible Mason was for a year or two because of the infamous Capitals goal; I will freely admit that I broke a lamp in a hotel when I watched that live, but I still remember Mason carrying us to the postseason in the year of peak Hakstol (VandeVelde playing 79 games, AMac and Manning getting heavy minutes, Nick Schultz, Giroux having only 67 points, etc). He fell off the year after his second good season, but still, you have to credit Mason for having a pair of the best years from a Philadelphia goalie in recent history. The only reason that team didn’t go far was because the rest of the roster was poorly constructed or underperforming; goaltending was not the issue. In contrast, Hart played behind a defensive unit that allowed 5% less threat than league average; that’s not to say he wasn’t good, but his stats are a little bit boosted by the quality of play surrounding him.

Bob had an unbelievable rookie season as a 22 year-old, so it’s pretty difficult to say that Hart had a top 3 season among all Flyers starters of the past decade given the data. Still, Philadelphia’s savior in net battled hard to help buoy the team towards the top of a highly competitive division and provided excellent play at home, along with flashes of what we can look forward to when he’s fully matured. The Silvertips product still had an inarguably good year and ranks solidly within the top 5 performers of the past decade in the starting role for the orange and black. I’d easily put him at 4 because Elliott’s numbers are a bit misleading; not accounting for his abysmal play at 4v5 masks his overall -1.7 GSAx, which dragged the Flyers’ PK down to 29th in the league that year. As of right now, I don’t think he’s quite had a season on par with those Mason performances or Bob’s rookie outing, but that’ll probably change in 2021.

If there’s one thing that should make Flyers fans happy, it’s this simple fact: Carter Hart played about as well in his first full season as a starter as any 21 year-old goalie ever. The kid put up numbers vaguely comparable to age-21 Roberto Luongo (.920 SV%, 2.44 GAA in 2000-2001) and Martin Brodeur (2.40 GAA, .915 SV%), and that isn’t some kind of fluke. One can only hope he’ll dominate the next decade of starts in net for Philadelphia en route to a few awards and a long-awaited Stanley Cup.

Photo Credits: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire, HockeyViz.com, Evolving-Hockey.com

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