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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 for 2017: Ryan Hartman surpasses expectations at No. 4

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Hartman was a question mark a year ago, but now he’s a pivotal part of the lineup.

Chicago Blackhawks v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

We all knew that Ryan Hartman would get a chance with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. What we didn’t expect is that the former first-round pick would finish third among all NHL rookies in even strength goals, emerging as a crucial secondary scorer on a team that needed it.

Hartman was hyped as the next Andrew Shaw, and so far he’s lived up to that as an agitator who can also contribute on the offensive end. If he can continue producing at the rate he did last season in an even larger role, then it’ll turn out that we actually underestimated Hartman as a prospect despite his pedigree. The Hawks have a very good bottom-six winger here who could potentially be even more.

Key info

Position: Winger
Birth date: Sept. 20, 1994
Acquired via: 2013 NHL Draft, first round (30th overall)
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Size: 6’0, 181 pounds
Contract: One year, $863,333 cap hit

Breakdown

Hartman has taken an interesting path to where he is today. The Blackhawks drafted him with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft after a strong showing between the OHL and World Juniors, immediately anointing him one of their top prospects.

He returned to juniors for one more year, but didn’t see the kind of production leap you’d hope for. Then came three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL where his point production dropped from 37 to 35 to 31 each year. Not exactly a trend that screams high scoring upside in the NHL.

That’s what makes last season so surprising for Hartman. Even though he was a well-regarded first-round pick who regularly showed glimpses, his overall performance had been consistently “meh.” Guys who can’t top 40 points in the AHL typically don’t start doing it at the next level.

But for whatever reason, it seems like Hartman could be the rare player who is better at the NHL level. He put a ton of shots on goal — 10.8 per 60 at even strength last season, per Hockey-Reference. That’s despite a constantly changing role that included playing on all four lines and both wings. He was asked to do a lot, and had a higher even strength shot rate than anyone else on the team. That includes Patrick Kane, who was at 9.2 per 60.

That’s pretty incredible, and a good sign that Hartman won’t regress heavily in his second season. He was not depending on an unusually high shooting percentage (11.2 percent last season) or an unusually favorable role. He wasn’t getting all those points on the power play. He racked up more goals at even strength than any rookie except Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

Hartman still needs to round out his game, but the scoring ability he’s displayed so far is impressive to say the least. Entering his age-23 season, it’s exciting to see just how good he can be.

What’s next in 2017-18?

Hartman will be one of the wingers in the Blackhawks’ top nine entering next season. It’s unlikely that he’ll get a role on one of the top two lines with the additions of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, but there’s a good chance he’s the right winger on the third line for the season opener.

If Richard Panik struggles on the first line at some point, you have to wonder if Hartman gets a shot there next to Saad and Jonathan Toews. He could also get more looks on the power play now that Artemi Panarin is out of the mix, which will force the Blackhawks to change things up there.

No matter what, Hartman will be a key part of the Hawks for the upcoming season, and it’ll be a high priority to re-sign him when he hits restricted free agency next offseason.