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Top 25 under 25: Jeff Carter

Monday, March 17, 2008

For my second installment in the Top 25 under 25, I’m taking a look at Jeff Carter.  The Philadelphia Flyers chose Carter 11th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft using a pick acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes. 

2003 was an excellent vintage – 29 of the top 30 picks have played in at least one NHL game.  And one look at the names shows that these are guys who deserve to be there: Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, Andrei Kostitsyn.  Then there are the guys taken after Carter: Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Steve Bernier, Zach Parise, Eric Fehr, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Jeff Tambellini, Corey Perry, and Patrick Eaves.

So how does Carter measure up against his class?  In his first three years, Carter has registered a grand total of 64 goals and 62 assists in 216 games played with a -3 rating and 10.3 shot percentage.  That averages out to around 40 points per season. 

Other 2003 draft picks that have put in 3 seasons:

Corey Perry (28th overall) – 208 GP, 59G, 64A, +25, 12.0 shot percentage

Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall) – 211 GP, 62G, 110A, +27, 12.5 shot percentage

Zach Parise (17th overall) – 234 GP, 75G, 80A, +18, 12.2 shot percentage

Dion Phaneuf (9th overall) – 233 GP, 52G, 99A, +28, 7.4 shot percentage

Carter’s production is in line with his classmates.  The -3 rating that stands out can easily be attributed to the extremely poor season the Flyers experienced in 06-07; the other four players have had consistent winning seasons with Anaheim, New Jersey, and Calgary. 

What should intrigue observers more is Carter’s potential for higher production.  So far he’s been extremely streaky, going for 15-20 game stretches without scoring much and then having 10-15 game goal streaks.  Such trends are normal for young players.  Should Carter be able to eliminate or reduce his droughts, he could easily move up from 20 goals a year to 30 or 40. 

Beyond the stats, Carter can be a huge impact player on the ice.  When he’s on his game, he often shows shades of Mats Sundin.  First you notice his size and wicked wrist shot.  Then there’s his ability to generate speed quickly, challenge his linemates to keep up, and drive hard towards the net to score.  Finally, you should note his improved defensive play, something that’s grown throughout the current season as he’s matched up with top line players.

 Carter has had opportunities to show his stuff recently with Richards sidelined due to a torn hamstring, and he’s delivered with another of his 10 game scorings streaks.  Some have even noted games where Carter seems “Forsbergian,” almost single-handedly willing the Flyers to a victory.  But Carter was due for a streak when Richards went down.  Is his emergence the sign of a maturing star or simply another spike in the cycle?  The next few games should bear out the truth.

The bigger issue with Carter revolves around his RFA status following this season.  It’s no secret that the Flyers will be tight against their cap.  With the large free agent contracts signed over the summer and the need to resign RJ Umberger, the other primary RFA, Paul Holmgren may face some difficulty keeping Carter.  Especially if another GM decides to pull a Ken Lowe.  Given his potential growth in the next few years, the Flyers should retain Carter, and it is my belief they will be able to sign him.  The Flyers have a good track record in negotiating deals.  However, offer sheets would probably come in around 4 million minimum, putting the returns at 2 first round draft picks, a 2nd, and a 3rd.  Either way, the Flyers will make out well in the long run.

Further reading on Carter:

Bill Meltzer – Carter: The maturation of a star or another climb on the rollercoaster?

Broad and Pattison – Jeff Carter = the man

Spector – Flyers should do what it takes to keep Carter

Eklund – Player #109: Jeff Carter

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