Flyers top pick Carter exudes quiet confidence

By Bill Meltzer

In a draft considered the deepest in a decade, the Philadelphia Flyers
tabbed Sault Ste. Marie center Jeff Carter as the cornerstone of their
to replenish the depleted forward depth in the farm system. With the
center corps aging and only Patrick Sharp as a potential replacement in
near future, the organization has an especially dire need to begin
centers who can anchor the attack.

What’s more, the Flyers bypassed some more highly publicized prospects
were still on the board when the 11th pick (the first of two Flyers
round selections) came up. Fairly or unfairly, Carter’s progress will
now be
judged against that of Zach Parise and Dustin Brown, whom the Flyers
not to select. Parise, in particular, will make for heated cannon
fodder, as
he ended up with the very team the Flyers and the entire NHL measures
themselves against: the Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.

While Philadelphia fans are known to put enormous pressure on their
teams and cut rookies no more slack from booing than the veterans,
even keel approach should serve him well. If the pressure phases him
all, he doesn’t let on. “I’m just happy to be joining a great
he said on draft day.

Flyers assistant coach Craig Hartsburg coached Carter his first year
with the
Soo. Hartsburg’s input helped the Flyers draft contingent, led by
manager Bob Clarke and assistant general manager Paul Holmgren (who
most issues related to drafting and player development), make up their
that Carter was the way to go.

Said Hartsburg, “He has the assets of a player that will go places.
He’s an
all-around good player and a mature young man with tremendous

Carter is pleased that he’ll be reunited with Hartsburg at some point.
started following [the Flyers] a bit this year, because Craig Hartsburg
now an assistant there. I started watching a few of the games, and
I’d see
him on TV.”

Like most Canadians, hockey is in the London, Ontario native Carter’s
blood. “My
Dad played one year in the OHL, for Oshawa,” he recalls. “Then, he
moved on,
and didn’t play much after that.”

The younger Carter started playing very young. By the age of three, he was
skates and beginning to learn the rudiments of the game from his
father. As
he advanced, he played midget hockey in London and junior B in
before moving up to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario

The Greyhounds struggled for much of the 2002-2003 season and Carter
got off
to a slow start. He also struggled in the post season as well, putting up just a
assists and a -5 rating in four playoff tilts. Nevertheless, Carter
scouts and his coaches by the way he continually worked hard all season
both ends of the ice. He finished with a team high 35 goals and 71
points in
just 61 regular season games.

“It was definitely a tough year,” says Carter. “It was something you
had to
battle through. I think everybody on the team kind of grew as a person
a player, so I think it is going to help out in the long run.”

Clarke, who always tempers his praise for young players, says that he is
impressed by Carter’s combination of size, speed and skill. While the
looked at three different centers for the eleventh spot in the draft,
chose Carter because “he can really skate for a guy his size and we
think he
can be a very solid National Hockey League center for us.”

Like all young players, there are questions about how well Carter’s
will fill out and whether his game will translate from junior to
professional success. Thus, the offseason goals Carter set for himself
“to put some size on in the summer. Just keep working on foot speed,
getting quicker.”

Despite his modesty and soft-spoken manner, Carter is a confident young
who has his sights set high. Asked to describe his assets as a player,
replied, “I think I’m an offensive forward. I can put the puck in the
I use my size to drive wide and [also] work down low and battle for

In a nod to the organization that just drafted him, Carter said that he
patterns his game after that of Flyers captain Keith Primeau, as well
rising Boston Bruins’ superstar Joe Thornton because “they are big
centermen who can put the puck in the net. I think they’re just good
all-around players.”

While Carter is not an especially aggressive player and, unlike Primeau
Thornton, is unlikely to regularly hit triple digit penalty minutes
season, the player is not afraid to get his nose dirty, according to
Hartsburg and Holmgren.

“He doesn’t back down from the physical play,” said Hartsburg. “He
every game.”