Chicago Blackhawks’ Three Most Surprising Players In 2016-17 Season

By George Clifford
Mar 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at the United Center. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at the United Center. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Ryan Hartman (38) shoots and scores a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at the United Center. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Ryan Hartman (38) shoots and scores a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at the United Center. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Leading with heart, man

Unlike one-shot wonders Mark McNeill and Kyle Baun who only got brief auditions with the Blackhawks before being  sent back to the Rockford IceHogs as trade sweeteners, rookie Ryan Hartman has not only managed to finally stick with the big club this season, but also has fashioned a breakout year in which he leads all Blackhawks rookies in games played (68), goals (18) and points (29). His four game-winning goals and plus-13 rating also lead Chicago’s rookie corps.

After short stints on the top line before the holidays, Hartzy has found his role down the stretch on the ‘Hawks’ checking line, on which he’s developed some amazing chemistry with Hossa.

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The two combined for three goals in Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Canucks, and Hartman’s tenacious backcheck against Ottawa’s Zack Smith quashed an open-net chance for the Senators to break a 1-1 tie late in the third-period.

Hartman’s playing right now with lots of confidence, pace and skill, so nobody should be surprised when he becomes the seventh Blackhawk to score at least 20 goals this season.

Keep on Hayden

Who knew? Just two weeks ago, rookie John Hayden played his last game as a Yale University Bulldog. Since then, the 22-year-old forward signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Blackhawks and claimed what appears to be permanent spot in the ‘Hawks’ lineup.

In four games playing on the top line with Toews and Richard Panik, the big winger has notched a goal and two assists while averaging 13 minutes of ice time and 20 shifts per game. Want more? How about 18 (!) hits and eight shots on net. He’s a keeper, for sure.

‘Hawks fans have got to be impressed with the young man’s composure, physicality and smart play all around. It’s easy to imagine the Hayden-Toews-Panik line becoming a dominant force that can drive possession, light up the scoreboard, and physically punish those players who dare oppose them. I can’t wait to see what Hayden can really do.

Next: Schmaltz, Kane Lead Blackhawks Hot And Not

So here we are with nine games to go in the regular season and the playoffs looming large. As a fan, I’m starting to feel the same confidence I had a few years back that the ‘Hawks can somehow find a way to win every game they play. And that’s the best surprise of all.

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