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A Closer Look at Ryan Hartman

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What does deadline acquisition Ryan Hartman bring to the Nashville Predators?

Chicago Blackhawks v Ottawa Senators
OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 9: Ryan Hartman #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks prepares for a faceoff against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on January 9, 2018 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

In case you missed it, yesterday the Nashville Predators acquired RW Ryan Hartman from their divisional rivals the Chicago Blackhawks. The trade wasn’t cheap for the Preds, but they weren’t paying for a rental—Hartman is a 23-year-old restricted free agent who David Poile says he sees as part of the team’s future.

So what have they gotten?

Hartman has averaged a little under thirteen minutes all-situations TOI both this season and last season. He had a very productive 2016-17, scoring 19 goals and adding 12 assists (eight of them primary assists) in 76 games. This season he’s added another eight goals and 17 assists (11 primary) through the first 57 games.

His boxcar stats this season don’t look great, but there are a couple of things worth noting:

First, Hartman’s 19-goal 2016-17 came with an all-situations shooting percentage of 11.2%, while this season his all-situations shooting percentage is almost three full points lower, at 8.3%. That’s a little low for a forward (the only forwards on the Preds’ current roster with lower SH%s are Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomäki), so we might expect it to rebound a little.

Second, scoring 19 goals while averaging just 12:46 a night is ridiculous.

Third, Hartman is still producing this season. The sexy goal totals aren’t there, but his assist totals have gone up. He’s also getting the puck on net less often, which will keep anyone from scoring.

Fourth, let’s get back to his production per minute.

Ryan Hartman, individual primary production and on-ice shot rates for 2016-17 (left) and 2017-18 (right).
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

These charts show Hartman’s on-ice 5v5 shot rates and his primary points production—goals and primary assists—at even strength and on the power play. He’s done almost all of his work at even strength, with one power-play goal last season and a goal and a secondary assist this season. The red and blue striping shows how much you’d expect a player on that line or unit to be producing per hour—as you can see, Hartman is scoring at a first-line rate in the time he’s gotten.

Whether that point production is sustainable is the next question. His on-ice shot impact is good (the Blackhawks’ shot share has improved with Hartman), but how much of his goalscoring has come via the big names?

Hartman’s most common linemates last season were Marián Hossa, Marcus Kruger, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Tanner Kero—not exactly the kind of players you’d have expected to inflate a rookie’s numbers prior to a trade. This season he’s been in the line blender again but has spent more time with Patrick Kane than with any other forward, with Nick Schmaltz a close second. This may have boosted his points totals (though about half his points came in games where he was on a different line), but it might also explain another anomaly I noticed earlier.

Ryan Hartman, contexts and on-ice heat maps for 2016-17 (left) and 2017-18 (right).
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

The Blackhawks have been bad defensively this season, but Hartman has been awful even relative to his team, and it’s a huge drop-off for him from last season. Even with heavy OZ starts, Kane’s lines have had a tendency to bleed high-quality chances against the last few years. That in combination with the Blackhawks’ weaker blueline depth this season might be to blame for what’s been happening to Hartman when the puck gets into his end. Good news: that might not be a problem for him here.

The other really noteworthy thing about Hartman here is how many penalties happen around him. The bad news is that he takes non-offsetting minors at an absurd rate, more often than anyone else on the Preds’ roster this season except Anthony Bitetto and Miikka Salomäki. The other news is that he draws non-offsetting minors at an even more absurd rate, more often than Kevin Fiala (currently leading the team)—if you like the Preds’ power play, that’s great news.

This probably ties in to what Peter Laviolette said in the press conference today about Hartman being “tough to play against.” He also hits a lot, though he’s not particularly bulky—he’s listed at 5’11” (which from the Chicago Blackhawks could mean anything) and 181 pounds. He has been in four NHL fights over the last two seasons; the voters at HockeyFights think he won two and lost the other two. The good news is that he’s not a replacement for Cody McLeod—he wasn’t signed, and presumably won’t be played, as a heavyweight in any sense of the word. Also, Ryan Hartman brings more than grit: he can play effective, results-oriented hockey at the NHL level.

At the very least, Hartman is a bottom-six player who is a threat to score. That is a good thing. Some players excel in limited minutes but don’t quite manage to translate it to a bigger role, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for them. The 2015-16 Penguins rolled four lines all of which were a threat to score, and we know how that ended. Other players excel in limited minutes, then keep excelling in a larger role. If Hartman is one of those, that’d be a serious addition for the Predators.

He does have some good underlying elements to his game.

Ryan Hartman, 2016-17 (left) and 2017-18 (right).
Viz CJ Turturo / Data Corey Sznajder

This shows Hartman’s last two seasons. He’s gotten much better at skating the puck out of the defensive zone this season and stayed fairly good at skating the puck into the offensive zone. He’s also passing a lot more, while, admittedly, sacrificing a few of his own shots. Looking at the passing data as tracked by Corey Sznajder, it looks like Hartman does not bring those elusive high-danger passes around the net that some of the Predators’ other recent acquisitions have. This is disappointing but hardly unfamiliar. Still, he should be able to get through the neutral zone well, and might be able to benefit in the offensive zone from playing with those other recent acquisitions.

Ryan Hartman should be a solid depth forward who could step up to a higher role briefly, in the event of injury or suspension. It’s not impossible that he will prove to be more than that.