Vinnie Hinostroza remembers playing hockey against good friend and (now) teammate Ryan Hartman, starting when they were seven years old.
“He was one of the toughest kids in the area to play against,” Hinostroza said. “You never wanted to play against him, even when there wasn’t checking.”
So basically, Hartman has always played this energy-driven, sandpaper game. It just so happens that his game is a lot like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw’s. So when Shaw was traded, the inevitable questions arose. Who was going to take Shaw’s place in the lineup? Who was going to bring Shaw’s agitation? Who was going to bring Shaw’s net-front presence? It was all about someone being “the next Shaw”.
While Hartman has replaced Shaw in some aspects, he is not, nor was he ever, trying to be Shaw. And so far this season Hartman’s been playing his game pretty well and creating his own identity with the Blackhawks.
So maybe it’s time for us to give Hartman credit for being a good player in his own right, and not a guy trying to be another guy.
“Andrew came into the league and built his own path and became the player he is by his own play and his own game,” Hartman said. “I’m just looking to do the same thing.”
Hartman has given a boost to the Blackhawks, and he’s currently on a line with Marian Hossa and Hinostroza. He was especially good on the Blackhawks’ Circus Trip, during which he had three goals in seven games including the game winner against Anaheim on Friday. He’s been agitating. He’s been aggressive. So far he’s also done all that while staying on the right side of the discipline line. In 19 games this season, Hartman has just two penalty minutes.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
Hinostroza said Hartman’s succeeding with his own game.
“That’s always been his identity. He’s not trying to be someone else,” Hinostroza said. “So it’s important he sticks to that and people will really start seeing how he plays. Hopefully he can keep it up.”
Much like several other rookies, Hartman is taking advantage of an opportunity. Another offseason purge and another tight salary-cap situation opened the door for some of the Blackhawks’ prospects. Hartman is especially noticeable against the Blackhawks’ more physical opponents.
“I think he’s always had a little edge to his game that he needs to bring every shift,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You notice him. He’s abrasive in the puck area, he goes to the hard areas, comes up with loose pucks and can make a play in tight areas, which is his game. Physicality — you look at our lineup, guys who can enhance our team physically in any way, we don’t mind that. He brings that element that we appreciate.”
He’s also brought offense, good for a team that needs more secondary scoring. So what’s been working for him?
“It’s a mix of a lot. Finding chemistry with line mates, with other players, a little bit of puck-luck too. Pucks have come onto my stick in good areas at times. We’ve been getting some wins, too, which helps,” Hartman said. “It’s a good thing I’ve been able to score. There’ve been a few posts and other chances, a couple of open nets I should’ve scored on, too. But hopefully I can continue helping out on the scoresheet.”
Hartman is here because the Blackhawks had players to replace, including Shaw. But he should be known for his own game, for his own contributions.
“I’m just coming along game by game,” Hartman said. “[I’m] playing the way I’ve always played and just trying to build a career from there.”