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Carter Hart leads crop of undersized draft-eligible goalies

The 2016 goaltending draft class lacks behemoths. How far will the crop of smaller, more athletic stoppers slide?
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

By all accounts, Carter Hart is having a great draft year with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips.

He’s a second-year starter with some of the best stats in the league despite playing in what can be a ravenous American Division, featuring potent squads such as Seattle and Portland. Is he the top North American netminder available next summer? There’s actually no collective wisdom right now.

In past years, big names such as Zach Fucale, Thatcher Demko and Malcolm Subban were obvious frontrunners – though, to prove just how fickle tastes are, only Subban ended up a first-rounder and the first North American goalie taken his year. “Of all the years,” one NHL exec told me, “it really is wide open.”

Among European goalie prospects, Sweden’s Filip Gustavsson is the main attraction. At 6-foot-2 he’s got the size, while his structure and technique in net are also excellent. While Hart is no shrimp at 6-foot-1, there’s something psychological about that one inch that puts him in a different class according to the scouts. In fact, if he were an inch or two taller, he’d probably be the guy.

For whatever reason, it’s not an enthusiastic year for netminding in the draft. “To be honest,” said another scout, “I’m not too high on any of them.”

Part of the reason could be that some of the bigger prospects struggled early on. Sherbrooke’s Evan Fitzpatrick got bombed by QMJHL shooters, while Evan Cormier of OHL Saginaw was surviving but not thriving for the Spirit. Tyler Parsons has begun to heat up for OHL London, but he has a similar height to Hart. Not that perception is keeping these kids down. Draft stock plays second fiddle to actually stopping the puck, and with teens able to snipe the top corners like some pros these days, the junior goalies are on watch.

“You have to be aware of it,” Hart said. “It’s all about crease management, managing your depth and using speed to your advantage.”

And hey, Jonathan Quick is no redwood, and he seems to have carved out a decent niche for himself in Los Angeles. Talent hawks do recognize size isn’t everything. “There’s a good mix of athleticism in this draft,” said the executive. “Plenty of guys play at six-foot, but it’s a longer path.”

For those more risk averse, there’s a good chance some late bloomers in the USHL or NAHL hear their names called on a second or third go-around in the draft pool this summer. But for those who think Hart can get the job done, they will find more than just his Everett resume. He was also one of two netminders that shut the door for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament this summer, where the nation once again won gold. “It was definitely my best hockey moment,” Hart said. “It was an incredible honor to throw on the Maple Leaf.”

Hart’s battery mate was the Peterborough Petes’ Dylan Wells, who stoned international shooters at the tourney but is having a little more trouble domestically. Still, Wells reaches that magical 6-foot-2 mark, so the interesting thing to watch is if he or fast friend Hart goes first when the picks are made.

Inevitably, at least one or two goalies from this crop will make the grade at the pro level, even if it does take a little longer for them to get there. Next year’s crop features big American Jake Oettinger (a late 1998 birthday) and a very impressive OHL Windsor rookie in Michael DiPietro, who has some of the best stats in the league while playing backup. Of course, DiPietro is only six-foot right now, so we may as well bookmark this debate for next year, as well.

This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the December 7 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.



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