Ryan Hartman has been molding himself to be an Andrew Shaw-type player for as long as he’s been in the Blackhawks organization.
So when Shaw was traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the end of June, attention naturally turned to Hartman. Can he be that guy? Can he provide that sandpaper and net-front presence on a continuous basis?
He hopes so.
“We play similar styles: feed off energy, make plays at the net, be one of the hard players to play against,” Hartman said. “Obviously with cap issues, stuff’s going to happen in the offseason. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen but it’s an opportunity now for me, especially, and some other guys to make a push, try to make the team this year.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
The Blackhawks have several holes to fill on their forward lines and none may be bigger that Shaw’s role. For Hartman, who’s played eight games over the past two seasons with the Blackhawks, this is the chance to show he can be that guy, and be that guy on a full-time basis.
Hartman just finished his second professional season, recording 15 goals and 20 assists in 61 games with the Rockford IceHogs. Hartman said his second season was especially valuable – “you come into that second year knowing how to play a full season. You’re not necessarily a veteran but you know the ins and outs,” he said.
Speaking of veterans, though, Hartman and the rest of the IceHogs learned a lot from Bryan Bickell, who spent most of last season with the IceHogs after struggling again with the Blackhawks.
“Having Bickell come down, a guy with two or three Stanley Cups and the experience, he’s able to teach the young guys what it takes to be an NHL player,” Hartman said. “He came down with a great attitude and helped everyone.”
Bickell is also an example, albeit an extreme one, of what happens when you struggle with your game. There may be more jobs available this season but the Blackhawks won’t be shy to reassign a call-up who’s struggling. Hartman, who played three games with the Blackhawks last season, knows that from experience. It’s a tough to deal with but it’s also fuel for a young player.
“You can’t be a guy who comes in, has two or three games, and then takes a night off. You have to bring it every night. That’s what it takes,” Hartman said. “There isn’t a guy who takes a night off who won’t be called down right away. You have to take it period by period.”
With the Blackhawks going through more roster changes, young hopefuls could get their best opportunity this fall. Hartman is one of those guys, a possible option to replace a particular player playing a particular game. It’s some pressure, sure, but Hartman doesn’t look at it that way.
“It’s more motivation. It gets you in the gym earlier, gets you working a lot harder, gets you doing the extra things because you know there’s a spot,” Hartman said. “If you don’t do whatever you can, you’re going to be kicking yourself at the end. Do the work now and it should pay off in the end.”