VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Ron Hextall did something he doesn't normally do.
He tipped his hat about what he sees in the future of one of his prospects, goaltender Carter Hart, whom the Flyers selected with the 48th pick in last month's NHL draft.
"We wouldn't have picked a guy in the second round if we didn't think he had a chance to be a No. 1 goalie," Hextall said at the team's development camp last week at Flyers Skate Zone.
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"Carter's got some special qualities. His ability, that's one thing. But mentally, everything that we talked about, our scouts saw. The mental part of the game, he's very strong. He's a real student of the game. He wants to get better, asks a lot of questions.
"Quite honestly, it's almost hard for me to relay that a 17-year-old understands what he's got to do to become a pro and hopefully an NHL goalie one day. Typically, kids are 20, 21, 22 before they realize, 'You know what? I gotta get better.' He's impressive."
Hart became the first goalie drafted in 2016, marking the longest wait for a netminder to be selected since 1986, when the Washington Capitals picked Shawn Simpson 60th overall.
That's not something Hart is paying too much attention to. He said he was so excited about being drafted that it didn't fully hit him until after he got home.
"I didn't really have any words for it at the time," Hart said. "It was a lot to take in."
The Edmonton, Alberta, native finds himself part of a crowded crease in the Flyers' organization. In the last two years, Hextall has committed to adding goaltending depth.
In addition to drafting Hart this year, the Flyers also signed Yale product Alex Lyon to an entry-level contract in April (more on Lyon here). In the last two drafts, including Hart, they've added four goalies.
"I'm not worried about any of the other guys," Hart said. "I'm just worried about my development and worry about myself. I'm not really a selfish guy, but I think this is the part where you have to be selfish. There are some good goalies here, and it definitely pushes you to be better, but at the end of the day you just have to worry about yourself."
Playing for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, Hart described development camp being sort of like a high school environment with different clicks.
"There's sort of little clicks inside the Western league guys, [we] sort of hang out with each other," he said." The O (OHL) guys sort of hang out with each other, so automatically I was one of those Western League guys, so I got to know them pretty fast.
"I know they're all really good guys. I know Ivan [Provorov] a little already from meeting him at the CHL awards, and he's a really nice guy. I just met Travis Sanheim the other day, and he seems like a pretty good guy, too."
At 6-foot, Hart doesn't fit the mold the NHL appears to be headed with goalies — bigger the better, but he believes he's still growing. He grew two inches this year, he said.
Strong technique could help Hart overcome his size. The 17-year-old describes himself as a reactive, blocking style of a goaltender, saying most goalies now are butterfly.
"I'm not a guy who just drops right down, squats and hopes it hits you," Hart said. "Reactive-blocking, whereas shifting into saves out of my butterfly. A lot of things can be used to your advantage if you have a smaller frame.
"For example, taking a bit more ice makes up for an inch, being a puck-tracker makes up for an inch, having good angles makes up for an inch. All those little details can really help."
Hart was named the CHL's goaltender of the year after an impressive 2015-16 season with Everett in which he played in 63 of its 72 games. He said the award was a huge honor.
Last season, Hart finished with a 35-23-1-3 record, a 2.14 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and six shutouts, which were second in the WHL.
One area Hart said the Flyers were working with him on in development camp was his puck-handling, an important skill for a goalie to kill an opposing team's forecheck.
Another area he said Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh and goalie development coach Brady Robinson introduced him to was the concept of ice awareness.
Ice awareness, as Hart described it, is being able to look off the puck to see where other players are and getting back to the puck carrier before a shot or pass has been made.
Hart said it's something that he can apply to his game.
"I think I've done a decent job of being aware with other players," he said, "but they really stressed the ice awareness part of the game and I think that's something that I can add to my game, or even improve to my game."
Puck tracking also is an integral skill for an NHL goalie, so is ice awareness an extension of that?
"It can be," he said, "But I think it's more of helping out with your reads and being able to read the play a lot faster. If you know where another guy is, then you know where to get into position if they make that pass and you can beat the pass and get into better position."