July 13, 2020
Anytime a club uses a first-round draft choice on a player, that team clearly trusts that big results will eventually come in return from that player. And while the Minnesota Wild didn't select Ryan Hartman with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft (that was the Chicago Blackhawks), they still expected to get a solid return on investment.
This season was the first for Hartman in a Minnesota sweater, and it's safe to say it wasn't up to par with what is often expected from a former first-rounder. But, at this point, it's time to consider that Hartman is what he is — a solid fourth-line winger capable of hounding opponents into taking penalties and chipping in occasionally on the scoresheet.
As a fourth-liner, it would be foolhardy to expect Hartman to register eye-popping numbers. In his role, though, he was mainly expected to play a tough, physical game, and he did it quite well this season. Hartman committed 26 penalties over the course of the season, which is in the top 20 of the NHL. He also drew 23 penalties, which placed him tied for the team lead in the statistic.
Season in review
Like mentioned above, the statistics (nine goals, 11 assists and 20 points) may not jump off the page as anything notable, but the advanced metrics from HockeyViz tend to tell a different story as far as chances created.
The graphics above show the Wild's rate of unblocked shots at 5-on-5 both with and without Hartman on the ice. The red areas indicate a higher success rate and the blue areas point out lower rates of success. With Hartman on the ice, it's clear that the Wild tend to do a better job of generating high-danger scoring opportunities directly in front of net, which is indicative of an effective offense. But while production and creating shots is a great thing, finishing is another. Over the course of the regular season, he took 114 shots, which is the second-highest total of his career (and we'd only assume would be higher if not for COVID-19) in 741 minutes played, but he was only able to muster nine goals, which leaves more to be desired. For reference, his 7.9 shooting percentage was far below the league-wide average of .910 in 2019-20. Perhaps bad luck played a role, but he's performed better as a goal-scorer in the past.
Where Hartman really cut his teeth for Minnesota was being a guy who could go out and get into the head of his opponents. On numerous occasions this past season, he was unafraid to drop the gloves and throw hands.
For example, in a slugfest between Minnesota and the Washington Capitals on March 1, Hartman duked it out with Brenden Dillon and was able to land a Conor McGregor-like left hook straight to Dillon's dome. Fighting isn't nearly as common in hockey as it once was, but the fire that Hartman plays with certainly doesn't go unnoticed.
This gritty style of play is exactly what was expected from him when the wild signed him during the summer.
"Ryan will bring grit and competitiveness to our lineup," said former GM Paul Fenton. "His compete level is what we are looking for from our team each and every night."
The deal was inked for two years and $3.8 million dollars, which makes next season and the rest of 2019-20 (if it continues) a big opportunity for Hartman.
While the goals weren't exactly flowing on the most consistent basis, Hartman's game-winner against the Arizona Coyotes on November 9 was electrifying. It was a nice rebound from his previous game, where he spent 17 minutes in the sin bin throughout the contest.
Down two goals midway through the second period, the Wild went on to tie the game moving into the third and final frame off goals from Kevin Fiala and Matt Dumba. Early in the third period, just over four minutes in, Hartman received a centering pass from the far side and fired a ripper past Darcy Kuemper while dropping to a knee to give the Wild the lead (and an eventual win) against a conference opponent. This was a win Minnesota desperately needed, too, as the beginning of the season was a forgetful, to say it politely.
As mentioned above, the rest of this season and all of the next could be huge for Hartman's future with the team. Sure, he can bring great competitiveness and fire while on the ice, but there are also many veteran players in the NHL who can do that, and possibly give more consistent goal support.
If he can rekindle the sort of production he had in the 2016-17 season with the Blackhawks (19 goals, 12 assists and 31 total points) then he will surely be in good shape with Minnesota moving forward. The potential is certainly there. With this being his fourth team in his six-year career, only time will tell if this will be a productive relationship between both the player and franchise.
COURTESY: Kurt Grayson Martin -