When Andrew Shaw got traded to the Montreal Canadiens over the offseason, all eyes shifted to Ryan Hartman as the favorite to replace the scrappy forward who made a living in front of the net and getting under opponent's skin.
Perhaps part of the reason he was viewed as a strong candidate for that role was when Hartman introduced himself to the National Hockey League in February of 2015 seconds into his first shift by laying a huge hit on New Jersey Devils forward Daniel Zubrus, showing the Blackhawks the type of edge he brings.
In Wednesday's season opener though, Hartman made an impact on the scoresheet on a bizarre sequence.
In a 1-1 tie towards the latter stages of the second period, Hartman's stick was knocked out of his hands in the neutral zone and slid towards the blue line, where rookie Tyler Motte was carrying the puck into St. Louis Blues territory before tripping over it.
Hartman quickly skated to it and picked it back up, kept the puck in the zone immediately after on an errant pass by Robert Bortuzzo, fired a half-slapper on net that missed by a few inches, then skated to the blue paint where Motte somehow fed him a pass and Hartman's ensuing shot snuck past Blues goaltender Jake Allen's five-hole for his first career NHL goal and Motte's first career point.
"It's a really good feeling," Hartman said following a 5-2 loss in front of 21,729 fans at the United Center, a handful of which were his family members. "It's something you dream about your whole life. Obviously you wish you got a win out of it, kind of takes away from it a little bit, but I'm pretty excited to get that out of the way and moving forward hopefully get some more here."
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It was the second consecutive season a Blackhawks player scored his first career NHL goal in the season opener with Artemi Panarin doing the same against the New York Rangers last October.
It couldn't have come at a better time for the Blackhawks, who had recorded only three shots on goal in the period.
"It certainly put us in a great spot," Joel Quenneville said. "We weren't going very well at that moment. It was a funny shift and we ended up getting a break and scoring so it was a momentum-changer for us. Those guys have done some good things for us throughout camp and we feel these guys need to play and get better as we go along here."
It also came shortly after Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews challenged his line on the bench to get things going after a dull period.
"I told Hartzy to go get a big shift there and he responded," Toews said. "It was good to see that, those two guys respond."
Hartman, who had one assist in eight career games entering the 2016-17 season, was one of six rookies in the Blackhawks' lineup, and is among them trying to earn more ice time.
He recorded just over eight and a half minutes in his season debut, but making the most of it is how you get rewarded with more and earn the trust of the coaching staff, and he did just that on Wednesday.
"You usually don't really think about it too much, but yeah it gets it out of the way and makes it one less thing to worry about I guess," Hartman said. "Now it's just hockey and go out there and play."