Welcome to another summer of Blackhawks’ Future Friday. In this weekly column, we explore some of the prospects in the Blackhawks’ system, and see how far they’ve come in the past year, as well as discuss their future with the club. After a week off to cover the NHL Draft, Future Friday is back, with a player that became a Blackhawk on that big stage just one year ago: Ryan Hartman.
As a 19-year old, the Blackhawks sent Hartman back to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, instead of the only other option, which was playing for the Blackhawks themselves.With the Whalers, Hartman’s production dipped compared to the season before, putting up 53 points in 52 games, slightly less than the 60 he recorded in 56 games in 2012-13. He was also in the penalty box less often in 2013-14, with 91 PIMs, far less than the 120 he recorded the year previous.
Despite having similar offensive totals, Hartman’s plus-minus was the result of a weaker Whalers team than before, and he finished an ice-cold -14.
The Whalers snuck in to the OHL Playoffs as the eighth seed, but fell in five games to the eventual champion Guelph Storm. In that time, Hartman recorded four assists and eight penalty minutes.
With Hartman’s OHL career likely over, he joined the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs (The Blackhawks’ top affiliate) for the remainder of their regular season, as they tried to secure a playoff spot. Hartman adjusted to the AHL level quickly, recording three goals and seven points in nine games, adding eight penalty minutes along the way. The IceHogs did not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs, and Hartman’s season was over.
As the focus shifts to the 2014-15 campaign for the Illinois native, it is a safe bet that the 2013 first-rounder will play full-time with the IceHogs next season. His abrasive game is something the ‘Hogs missed in key divisional tilts with teams like the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals, and his offensive touch will provide some support for players like Alex Broadhurst, Mark McNeill, and Philip Danault, who are expected to be the ‘Hogs top guns next season.
There are high expectations for Hartman as his game matures, but the Blackhawks’ great farm system will allow him to take his time to develop at the AHL ranks before Blackhawks’ fans even dream of seeing him don the Indian Head. Hartman is a good sized player at 5-foot-11, 180 lb, and just how long it will be before we see him climb to the NHL ranks entirely depends on when his hockey IQ is deemed high enough for one of the most skilled teams in the league.
Hartman’s heart (no pun intended) will never come in to question, and the gritty game he is known for will easily be enough for the prospect to hold his own as he becomes a full-time pro. Looking down the road, Hartman’s similarities with current Blackhawk Andrew Shaw could end in one of the players getting moved, as both abrasive forwards could have a hard time fitting in with the many skilled sticks the ‘Hawks possess. For the time being, however, Blackhawks fans can look forward to one of their prospects playing a little closer to home next season.
For more Blackhawks conversation, like us on Facebook: Blackhawk Up, and follow us on Twitter: @Blackhawk_Up.