One doesn’t have to look far down the NHL’s goal-scoring list to find an unfamiliar name. Try two spots.
One goal in Friday night’s game against Tampa will pull Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter even with Alex Ovechkin in the battle for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 31; pretty damn good for a guy who entered the season No. 3 on the team’s pivot depth chart.
Besting the consensus best sniper in the world would be a significant addition to Carter’s resume, but the 24-year-old isn’t fixated on the race.
“I look at it; obviously you’re going to,” Carter said, “but I try not to put too much emphasis on it.”
The London, Ont., native and 2003 first round draft pick (11th overall) has already surpassed his career high of 29 goals in 82 games from last season and is on pace to join Reggie Leach, Tim Kerr, Mark Recchi, John LeClair, Rick MacLeish and Bill Barber as the only Flyers to reach the 50-goal plateau. He also played in his first All-Star Game Sunday.
“I haven’t really changed anything,” said Carter of his success this season. “Things have just started to click for me. I’ve got confidence and I’m just rolling with it.”
Confidence and additional ice time. With Daniel Briere limited to nine games due to core injuries, Carter has seen his playing time increased by nearly two and a half minutes over last season. He’s also getting regular shifts on both the power play, where he’s 11th in the league with nine goals, and the penalty-kill, where he owns a league-best four shorties.
The emergence of the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder is perhaps the biggest reason the injury-plagued Flyers, who’ve already lost 230 man games, are still a top contender in the East.
“We’re definitely happy,” Carter said. “We’re right in the hunt for the division and that’s where we want to be.”
Not bad for a team that was dead last in the league by a long shot only two seasons ago. Carter points to GM Paul Holmgren, who took over for Bobby Clarke during the 2006-07 campaign, for the team’s quick about-face.
“Holmer’s been great,” said Carter, a four-year Greyhound with Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario League. “We always knew he’d be a great GM. He’s been a big part of turning things around for us; brought some key guys in and done a great job.”
And what of the Flyers’ odds to go from worst to first in only three seasons?
“I think we have a great chance,” Carter said. “We had a nice run in the playoffs last year and that gave us confidence this season.”
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.