At just 27 years old, Ryan Hartman’s NHL journey has been a rollercoaster.
Hartman was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 60 points in 56 games in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Plymouth Whalers and ultimately went 30th overall.
At the NHL level, Hartman played in Chicago for 141 games. He scored 57 points in that time, and even though his impact in the numbers was limited, he played a gritty game and got under people’s skin. Fans loved him for being willing to put his body on the line to win games. After starting his career with the Blackhawks, Hartman was traded to the Nashville Predators with a 2018 fifth-round pick (Spencer Stastney) for a 2018 first-round pick (Nicolas Beaudin) and a 2018 fourth-round pick (Philipp Kurashev).
Hartman played 85 games with the Preds over two partial seasons, scoring 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2019 trade deadline in his second season with the Predators. He was dealt with a 2020 fourth-round pick (Thimo Nickl) for Wayne Simmonds. After scoring six points in 19 games with Philadelphia, he was traded to the Dallas Stars before becoming an unrestricted free agent after not receiving a RFA qualifying offer.
In the summer of 2019, Hartman signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild for two years and a total of $3.8 million. With an AAV of $1.9 million, there weren’t extremely high expectations for the young forward. He wanted to bring a particular brand of hockey to Minnesota, and clearly, they were looking for the kind of qualities that Hartman had showcased for many years. While he has demonstrated those qualities with the Wild, he also seemed to find another gear in scoring.
Hartman scored 20 points in 69 games in 2019-20, and then in the Covid-19 shortened 2020-21 season, he put up 22 points in 51 games. He was on pace for 35 points in an entire 82 game season, which would have been a career high. Considering he missed five games, Hartman was on pace for 33 points, also a career high. Either way, he was scoring much better than he had previously in the NHL.
Hartman Continues the Trend
So far, in 2021-22, Hartman is doing the same thing but better. In 15 games played, he has scored 11 points, and the biggest thing that stands out is that seven of them are goals. He’s shooting at a ridiculous 14 percent, and even though it’s bound to come down, Hartman is doing the right things to keep the scoring at a high level.
He’s not only scoring, but he’s making the coaching staff’s lives easier. There’s no stress with him in the lineup because the coaching staff knows that he won’t complain about his linemates or his ice time.
“The nice thing is [Hartman] doesn’t care where he plays, and we don’t care where he plays, and that’s such a nice thing to have... There’s no knock at our door saying, ‘how come I’m not here, how come I’m not there, and how come I’m not playing with somebody.’”
Head coach Dean Evason had this to say on Hartman: “I don’t think [his progression] has surprised us. I honestly don’t even know what he’s got. He’s played very well. Pitlick had three goals which was great playing on that line, and he created a lot of them, obviously. You can look at stats any way you want, but if we’re having success, then everybody will have success individually.”
Well, we’re going to look at the stats. Evason is correct. We can look at stats any way we want, and I’m highly impressed with his analytics. In expected goals for percentage (xGF%), Hartman is seventh on the Wild at 58.16 percent. In goals above replacement (GAR), he leads the team with 6.1. The next highest is one of the newest additions to the team, who is making his mark early, Dmitry Kulikov, with 3.1. The separation is incredible. Hartman ranks seventh, yesk, seventh in the NHL in the statistic.
In expected goals above replacement (xGAR), Hartman still leads the Wild with 5.7, and there is still a separation between the first and second spots, but it’s not as high. The next closest to him is the captain Jared Spurgeon with 4.8. Hartman is 19th in the league in this category.
It just keeps getting better with his regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart. The goals for per 60 category (arguably the most important one in the visual) hit the third standard deviation, which is elite production for those of you who don’t know. Hartman is contributing to the Wild’s offense at an elite level. One of the best parts is that he’s playing at an insane level on the offensive end, but he’s also playing above average defense too. One area that the Wild seems to enforce is strong defensive play, and Hartman embodies that perfectly.
It’s hard not to love Hartman. He is scrappy, willing to get under people’s skin and go to the dirty areas, but he also has the skill to score from other areas. He’s an intelligent player, and his attitude towards the game is something that every player in the locker room can replicate.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but regression will hit at some point. He’s certainly playing well right now, but unfortunately, he is not the seventh-best player in the NHL. Keeping up that pace is nearly impossible when thinking about the level of players that could be in contention for that title. Nonetheless, he’s doing everything that the Wild need him to be doing. The sample size is small, but there’s a lot to like from his early-season performance.