Late last February, with the Preds in prime position to contend for their first-ever President’s Trophy, GM David Poile made a move that not many expected for a price not many were happy with: prospect Victor Ejdsell and the 2018 first and fourth round picks to Central Division rival Chicago for a former first round draft pick, Ryan Hartman.
After a stellar rookie year (19 goals and 12 assists), Hartman’s production had dropped and Chicago recognized they were in the business of rebuilding. Sought after for his tenacity off and on the puck and a tenacious forecheck, Hartman was expected to contribute some offense in a role not unlike Scott Hartnell. With just three goals in 20 games (as well as two in the playoffs), Hartman had a lot of eyes on him coming into last season, with the important question: would he ever live up to the hefty price that was paid for him?
The Report Card
Note - the above graphic shows Hartman’s total season statistics, including time with Philadelphia, but his Nashville numbers (10 goals, 10 assists) are pretty well-represented overall (his rates, etc. do not change by any significant amount).
- On the few occasions where Hartman was asked to step up and fill a top-six role, he answered the call. Unfortunately, these times were a few and far between, by no fault of his own. The top portion of the above chart shows who his linemates were over the season, and as you can see, he played nearly everywhere. But there are three stretches that stand out.
- The first was about Game 10 of the season—while Hartman had started the season being centered by Nick Bonino in a defensive role, the switch from Calle Järnkrok to Kevin Fiala turned a switch in Hartman’s game. While he still started shifts in the defensive zone twice as often as the OZ, he went on a tear of four goals and an assist in just 5 games, including a two-goal effort in his first game with Fiala. After the second game, Fiala was replaced with Sissons and Hartman scored the other two goals.
- In late November, when both Arvidsson and Forsberg went on injured reserve, Hartman was given time with Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen. This was another five point stretch, however, for the first time since game 10, on-ice goals for exceeded on-ice goals against—Hartman and his line were outscoring opponents. He was deployed in the offensive zone and shot production was outproducing the opposition.
- Shortly after, Viktor Arvidsson returned, replacing Fiala, and while he only scored a single point in those four games, the production of the line on the ice was doing as well as one would imagine with two-thirds of JOFA reunited.
- On defense, Hartman was nothing spectacular, but his aggressive forecheck (in my opinion) was refreshing to watch. Never one to shy away from big hits, Hartman was fairly effective in tying up players on entry. With the staggering amount of line combinations he played with over the season in Nashville, to maintain an NHL average shot suppression level while on the ice is a feat by itself.
- Outside of the opportunities listed above, Hartman had a grab bag of line combinations, and at the midway point of the season, Hartman would go on a 28-game streak without a goal and with only six assists. At game 42, Hartman was on pace for an 18-goal season—a would-be career high—but this was not to be, as he would score only one more goal before departing Nashville late in the season. Judging in a different light, it would be simple to say “he had no support and a revolving-door line,” but seeing as he came with a hefty price tag, it’s fair to say you would expect slightly more.
- Television announcers loved to mention how “pesky” Hartman was, and they weren’t wrong—he was very good at drawing penalties and getting under the skin of opponents, but he also took quite a few himself, earning 44 PIM over the course of 64 games, or slightly over two-thirds of a minute per game. Many of these came at inopportune times as well.
- On offense, he had below replacement-level shot quality, and defensively, allowed an even worse expected goals against rate per 60. He allowed higher quality shots and wasn’t taking them himself. In many cases, having volume instead of quality works, and for a while it did. But then luck ran out, and the low-percentage shots stopped finding the net.
In his lone-two goal game, the first of the two was dirty, and I mean dirty. Taking an excellent pass from the wall from Fiala, Ryan Hartman flew in from the neutral zone, banished Colin Miller to the shadow realm, and ended with a fantastic deke and backhand against Malcolm Subban up high. He would score again less than a minute later.
A streak of 27 games without a goal acts cumulatively as a worst moment for sure. Sure, I could be petty and use a crappy moment while he was with Chicago, but that’s not fair for me to embed here, so I won’t...
After a short tenure with the Flyers to end the season, Hartman famously found himself traded to Minnesota while on a fishing trip where the world assumed he had no idea what was happening—it was a nice twitter distraction for a few days for sure. But now that he’s with the Wild, and the lizard-loving GM that acquired him is gone, I don’t really have a bead on what he’ll do or where he’ll play. A smart move would be to play him with Fiala again, and I think they could do a decent amount of damage, but again, who knows WHAT will happen in the Twin Cities next year?
C+* But I give him this an asterisk: First, he was expected to justify the price paid for him, which was by no means in any way under his control. Second, the coaching staff just would not give him a chance to succeed. He moved from line to line seemingly on a per-game basis, and he had productive minutes in a second line role, but you bury him on the fourth line, it’s to be expected that he could drop off the face of the earth, scoring-wise.
He isn’t quite living up to his first-round hype, but I thought the Predators got a decent player with some tendencies that fit the Laviolette mold. I stomped and yelled all season that they were using him wrong, and some even postulated that it was to curtail his value in his RFA year (something that isn’t and cannot be proven). But what happened, happened, and he basically disappeared halfway through the season. In my heart (no pun intended), I feel like he’s a B player that was forced into a D+ situation, so I settled on C+. Sorry Ryan Hartman—you fully deserved better than what you got.
How would you grade Ryan Hartman’s season?
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