You've heard the comparisons to Andrew Shaw before. When it comes to Ryan Hartman, who enters our Top 25 Under 25 list at No. 6, it's hard to avoid the likeness to a certain former Blackhawk.
Hartman has been called an agitator since he was picked in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft, and hasn't shook that label while playing in Rockford over the past couple seasons. He fits the same mold as Shaw -- a physical pest with just enough skill to be a good all-around player -- but it's one thing to look like Shaw, and another to actually play like him. Can Hartman be that kind of NHL player? He should get a chance this season.
Position: Right wing
Birth date: Sept. 20, 1994
Acquired via: First round pick (No. 30 overall) in 2013 NHL Draft
Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Size: 6'0, 181 pounds
Contract: ELC ($863.3K cap hit, expires in 2018)
If you've followed Hawks prospects at all over the past few years, you know about Hartman. He's been one of the bigger names in the system since his selection in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft and regularly gets those Shaw comps nowadays. While the team has regularly promoted, traded or moved on from other young players, Hartman has slowly developed in Rockford.
However, the one thing we've all been waiting for -- a big offensive breakout season -- has never materialized. This isn't to say he was unproductive in Rockford, but for a former first-round pick who flashed real offensive potential in his younger days, Hartman hasn't lit it up. In his two full seasons with the IceHogs, the 22-year-old has put up 28 goals and 72 points over 130 games. Again, not terrible ... but not stellar, either.
For a guy who you'd hope could score 35-40 points in an NHL season, putting up those kinds of numbers in the AHL isn't totally encouraging. Still, there's hope that Hartman will be able to make the leap during the upcoming season and become that sort of troublemaker-secondary scorer combo that Shaw was.
"I think in the case of Ryan, I think he’s knocking on the door here," assistant GM Norm Maciver said in an interview with The Athletic this summer. "I think this an important summer for him to have a good summer of training. It’s also going to be an important training camp for him to push for a job. There’s going to be opportunities this year. There’s a few things in his game that have improved the last couple of years. We just want him to take that next step. We’re expecting for him to be real push for a job this training camp."
One question is whether he can become more disciplined, as sloppy penalties remain an ongoing issue, but at a more core level, Hartman needs to show he has the offensive pop to be more than an agitator. That's what made Shaw such a valuable piece -- sure, he was irritating as hell, but he was also actually pretty good, too -- and based on his AHL performance, it's unclear whether Hartman can replicate that at the highest level. If he can't, it's hard to see how this former first-round pick develops into much more than a decent bottom-six depth guy.
What's next in 2016-17
The good news for Hartman is that he should have a very good opportunity to take a leap forward in 2016-17. He's still young enough that there could be one more gear in there, and the Hawks should be able to find that out this season with all of the minutes they have to pass around to young forwards.
Hartman has the experience advantage over a lot of his competitors in training camp, so he should be in a strong position to earn playing time. What exactly he'll do with those minutes is hard to say -- you can probably expect some nice hits as he tries to make an impression. If he can also score a bit and avoid silly penalties, that could be the end of his time in Rockford.
Second City Hockey's Top 25 Under 25 rankings
No. 6: Ryan Hartman
No. 7: Vincent Hinostroza
No. 8: Tyler Motte
No. 9: John Hayden
No. 10: Mark McNeill
No. 11: Fredrik Olofsson
No. 12: Chad Krys
No. 13: Erik Gustafsson
No. 14: Luke Johnson
No. 15: Tanner Kero
No. 16: Artur Kayumov
No. 17: Carl Dahlstrom
No. 18: Dennis Gilbert
No. 19: Luc Snuggerud
No. 20: Robin Norell
No. 21: Robin Press
No. 22: Dylan Sikura
No. 23: Graham Knott
No. 24: Anthony Louis
No. 25: Roy Radke
Honorable mentions: Radovan Bondra, Joni Tuulola, Mathias From, John Dahlstrom, Lucas Carlsson