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World Juniors

Sports psychologist helping Hart with mental aspect of game

Flyers goalie prospect learning to put losses in past, concentrate on present

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- It would be easy for Canada goaltender Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) to look back at his experience at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship with sadness or regret.

He helped Canada reach the gold medal game but lost 5-4 in a shootout. Along the way the U.S. rallied twice when trailing by two goals to come away with the victory.

 

[RELATED: World Junior Summer Showcase schedule]

 

However, Hart chooses to see the silver lining to his silver medal.

"It was such a fun experience last year and one of the best experiences of my life," Hart said. "Even though we lost in the final it was such a fun experience with that group of guys. We were so close."

Hart's mental toughness, in addition to his high skill level, has him in the discussion to be the starter for Canada at the 2018 WJC in Buffalo in December.

"I don't think last year can faze him," Canada coach Dominique Ducharme said.

Hart said he hasn't watched the gold medal game and has no intention to do so. He's says there's nothing to gain from it.

Some of that perspective comes from working with a sports psychologist, John Stevenson of Zone Performance Psychology in Edmonton. Hart said he visited Stevenson after the World Juniors.

"He said it's just another game," Hart said. "You've got to approach it like any other game. After the results of that game, it's the past. You can't control that. You can only control what you're doing now and that's what matters."

There certainly wasn't any post-WJC hangover. Hart returned to Everett of the Western Hockey League and went 16-8-4 with a 2.11 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and five shutouts in his final 30 games. He finished the season leading the WHL in GAA (1.99), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (nine), and was named the top goaltender in the WHL for the second straight season.

When Everett's season ended Hart joined Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League. He initially was brought in as an extra player, but after injuries to Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon, he dressed as the backup to Martin Ouellet for one game.

Though he never played, he found the experience beneficial.

"It was a lot different schedule, a lot different routine than junior hockey," he said. "You're living on your own, you're not living with a billet, no one to cook for you, no one to do your laundry. … It was a lot of fun. Always fun to be around guys that are a bit older than you. Definitely a jump up from the junior level. Lot of fun going up there."

Now he's back at the World Junior Summer Showcase, but he doesn't think it gives him any advantage against the other goalies he's competing with, Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks), Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers) or Dylan Wells (Oilers).

Instead, Hart has been a willing sounding board for the others, all of whom are at their first Summer Showcase.

"We were talking in the room and I said 'Give me some wisdom,' " DiPietro said after a game against USA Blue on Tuesday. "He said 'Don't overcomplicate things, it's only August.' The coaches here said they told him last year we're not evaluating here. … Having him here, he's been through the process before. Me as the first time, it benefits me."

Ducharme believes there's an advantage in Hart having gone through the process at the 2017 WJC.

"You can't buy experience," Ducharme said. "He's been through the tournament. It's a great asset to have a guy who was there and has been through it; it's really important. It's not a position that's easy to play. You learn from everything last year. 

"He's preparing for right now, for his NHL camp, junior season. All that is our experiences, little things that make you more mature as a player, and he's just moving forward with that."

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