CARTER HART VS. ILYA SAMSONOV
They’re 1-2 in our Future Watch goalie rankings, but does the tale of the tape tell a different story?
THIS IS THE PROPER starting point for a discussion of modern goalies. How are they trying to stop the puck? Hart uses sound fundamentals, anticipation and poise. He’s rarely out of position and is usually square to the puck. His style of play is a hybrid of the old standup and butterfly. His position is lower than the former standup posture, and his legs attempt to block the bottom of the net. His upper body is erect, which serves to smother rebounds, and there are very few sudden movements to make saves. Samsonov has a significantly different style. His is more a hybrid between a butterfly goalie and the more modern paddle-down scrambler. He relies on anticipation in the sense he wants his large body in position so that his quick movements can find pucks in scrambles or screen situations. He attempts to make his upper body “soft” to prevent rebounds. Both of these styles can work in the modern NHL. EDGE: NEITHER
THIS ISN’T CLOSE. HART doesn’t have superlative physical skills. His saves are based on positioning and technique. Samsonov’s positioning is good, but not at Hart’s level. Samsonov relies on his remarkable quickness and athleticism. He can make more exceptional saves than Hart and is better able to react to rebound shots when off-balance. EDGE: SAMSONOV
HART WILL BE AN average-sized NHL goalie. His size won’t prevent him from playing, but it will never be an asset for him. Samsonov looks big in the net. He has a chance to fit right in with the large young goalies who are presently performing for top NHL teams. EDGE: SAMSONOV
BOTH GOALIES TRY TO accomplish this important requirement in a different way. Hart is square to the puck with an erect upper body, and his glove hand is not exceptional. Samsonov is often not as square to the puck, but he’s great at absorbing shots into his body. He also has much quicker reactions than Hart to swat away loose pucks. EDGE: SAMSONOV
HART HAS DEVELOPED IN an ideal situation. He joined an Everett team led by an excellent coaching staff and is allowing the fewest goals in the WHL. He broke in as a backup to a veteran but is now in his third season as No. 1. He’s played in two world junior championships, where he was inconsistent in the first and solid in the second. He’ll probably play in the AHL next season before he seriously challenges for a job with the Flyers. Samsonov has had a more uneven development curve. He showed real potential in international tournaments and spent a good part of his pre-draft years serving as a backup on one of the KHL’s top teams. He has recently been getting the majority of starts with Magnitogorsk, but his game experience in the past few seasons has been more limited than that of Hart. A number of the NHL’s top goalies have European development backgrounds, including elite-level performers from Russia like Sergei Bobrovsky and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Still, Samsonov’s transition from the KHL to the Capitals is more uncertain. He must deal with factors of change from rink size to lifestyle. EDGE: HART
SOME CALL IT MENTAL toughness. Others prefer character or grit. I like the term “personality.” It’s an integral component of the makeup of any successful athlete. Does he have the proper personality to compete ferociously? To overcome inevitable obstacles? To bounce back from adversity? To interact well with teammates? These traits are more important for goalies than for other players. Numerous talented prospect goaltenders have “crashed and burned” en route to the NHL because of factors that had nothing to do with physical talent. And many established NHL goalies have been rendered ineffective for periods of time when they “lost their confidence” or were “fighting the puck.” Hart and Samsonov both impressed me personally when they were eligible for the draft, and feedback I received from people with ongoing knowledge of the two indicates they are both top-quality young men who will go as far as their talent allows. EDGE: NEITHER
I INVITE YOU TO look at the physical attributes of many of the top goalies in the NHL. Consider the size of Bobrovsky, Vasilevskiy, Ben Bishop, Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, Martin Jones and Frederik Andersen, to name a few. They not only possess height but also have power in their movements. They’re able to fend off players jamming the crease, find shots and loose pucks in traffic and “make themselves big” for shots they can anticipate but not really see. Samsonov has these attributes. Hart does not. In scramble situations, an NHL goalie often has to respond with lightning-quick reflexes to shots that have been deflected or to rebounds that suddenly are created in dangerous areas. Samsonov is better able to react to these situations than Hart is. Hart is consistent, fundamentally sound and controls rebounds well. He should be a career NHL goalie, but his physical limitations may prevent him from rising to the elite level. Samsonov does not have these limitations. He has a better chance of becoming a star. Tom Thompson has been an NHL scout/director/assistant GM since 1985.