For a while, we’ve been talking about how the goaltending situation for the Leafs is questionable at the top and lacking depth throughout. It’s certainly becoming the biggest weakness for the organization as they turn the corner in other areas, and this summer could be important in addressing it.
Toronto hasn’t drafted a goaltender since Antoine Bibeau in 2013, and they really could stand to add a prospect from the junior ranks now.
Enter Carter Hart, the top goaltending prospect eligible for this month’s draft.
First off, we quickly have to mention that Hart was just named the CHL goalie of the year. That doesn’t seem like a big deal at a glance because there are plenty of previous winners who never went on to become anything professionally, but it is notable since he’s a draft-eligible. That isn’t common. For a little bit of perspective, current NHLers Carey Price, Cam Ward, and Jake Allen have each won the award, but they all did it as draft-plus-two prospects.
As for Hart’s game itself, I’ll let some folks who study the position more weigh in. You’ll notice a common theme with Hart: his hockey sense and efficiency.
Here’s what Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine had to say about Hart in the Nation Network draft profiles last month:
Those that have seen Hart play will know that he uses his modest frame very effectively. A student of both Shane Clifford and Dustin Schwartz, Hart is a highly-trained puck tracker. His ability to track, not just on the release of shots, but also for the purpose of movements around his crease, is one of the best to come out of the CHL in recent years. His ability to stay on top of pucks, even when moving laterally, is reminiscent of the similarly-sized Eric Comrie – a Tri-City Americans grad, and 59th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Although Comrie is much more refined, Hart has the same technical base that is specifically designed to translate into the pro game. That’s what scouts should really be looking for.
ESPN’s Corey Pronman has Hart at the top of this goalie class in his final top ten rankings, and here again, we get a mention of his smart approach to playing the position.
His knowledge of how to read the game and anticipate pucks and his proper positioning in the net, is high-end. Any scout you talk to about Hart comes back talking about how easy he makes it look, and how he never gets out of his technique on tough saves…Hart plays the odds more than taking away goals, and he does it very well.
Numbers are never even close to the be-all and end-all when it comes to junior-aged goaltenders, as we’ve seen with rankings and actual draft positions over the years. But Hart has them anyway. His 0.918 save percentage ranked fourth among WHL goalies with 40-or-more games played this past season, and his overall workload of 63 games played (in a 72-game season, mind you) was second only to Adin Hill of the Winterhawks. We should also note in the last two postseasons his numbers have climbed to 0.929 over 17 games for the Silvertips.
Should the Leafs be interested?
Yes, the Leafs should be interested. They don’t have a goalie developing at the junior level and their whole situation at the position throughout the organization is a bit nerve-wracking. Justin Fisher talked about this last year and nothing has changed. Someone like Hart would give the organization’s goalie outlook a nice boost, and when you consider that the Leafs hold what now looks to be the 30th (from Pittsburgh), 31st, 57th (from Washington), and 62nd picks, they could have a chance to make that call on draft day. Hart should fall somewhere in that range.