Ryan Hartman has had the pleasure of playing with some of the NHL’s most talented stars from his time around a handful of organizations.
Before landing his spot as a member of the Minnesota Wild — including a nice little contract extension — he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, traded to the Nashville Predators and then the Philadelphia Flyers for a short little stint. Franchises that have had their fair share of elite talent in recent years.
During the unfortunate 3-2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, Hartman was centering a line in between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. While the result was disheartening, the line has made some magic. Kaprizov has three goals and four points in his last two games as Hartman as his center, while Zuccarello has three points in his last three.
After the mid-week loss, Hartman reflected on his time playing with other stars — especially during his time with the Blackhawks — and how that compares to his life as Kaprizov’s centerman now.
“I centered [Patrick] Kane and [Artemi] Panarin, and [Nick] Schmaltz a little bit here and there, when guys would go down my rookie year,” Hartman said. “You know, obviously they’re so skilled with the puck. They liked it when I got them the puck and got to the net.
“I talked to Kirill a little bit and Zuccy, you know obviously they’re good with the puck when I’m at the net and letting them go around the zone. I creates kind of a four-on-four situation and I have a one-on-one battle in front. It kind of opens the zone a little bit.
“I know a guy like Kane always talked about having [Artem] Anismov there at center, he’s just a big forward that would just stand there and give him space. I try to do that with Kirill a little bit. But when there is an opportunity to get open, you try to get open as well.”
Hartman has always been the type of player to get in those dirty areas on the ice, battling it out for puck possession and keeping his stars happy. With the detail of him letting the other dudes have open ice, a little more space out there in open play, it describes what he does currently so well.
Kaprizov will stickhandle and shoot to his heart’s content and to give him more and more opportunity to do that, it’s only going to heighten the Wild’s chances of leaving the game as the victors. So why not keep that in mind?
During the post-game press conference, Hartman continued to describe Kaprizov, in a little more physical detail.
Ryan Hartman on Kaprizov's willingness to stand up for himself: "He's a strong kid. You should see him with his shirt off." #mnwild— (@jessi_pierce) May 6, 2021
Ryan Hartman on Kirill Kaprizov: "If you see him with his shift off, he's pretty chiseled." #MNWild— Dane Mizutani (@DaneMizutani) May 6, 2021
Hartman was no doubt talking about Kaprizov’s fight with Golden Knights defender Zach Whitecloud in the first-period scrum. A serious bout that left us all in shock for how brutal this skilled rookie winger can be if left to his own devices. A streak that we might see more of in his career as a member of the Wild; Kirill can hold his own.