DENVER — Seven years ago, Ryan Hartman was able to partake in the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup revelry as a fan, a 15-year-old kid who was one of 2 million people who poured into the streets of downtown Chicago for the championship parade.
Two years ago, Hartman was a whole lot closer to the action as a black ace, a prospect called up after Game 1 of the Western Conference final to travel and practice with the Hawks as they marched to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
This year, Hartman will be right in the middle of what the Hawks hope will be another run at a championship.
“Seeing the celebration and how happy [they were] and the joy on some of these guys’ faces was something I enjoyed,” Hartman said. “But I wasn’t necessarily part of it, per se. For the last two years, that’s been a pretty big motivator for me, to be on the other side of it and be the one who’s there playing and winning it. Hopefully, we’ll make a good push.”
If they do, Hartman is sure to play a big role. While he won’t be in the Calder Trophy discussion with budding superstars Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the 2013 first-round pick out of West Dundee has put together one of the best rookie seasons in Hawks history.
Only seven Hawks have scored more even-strength goals as a rookie than Hartman’s 18 — an impressive list made up of Steve Larmer, Eric Daze, Darryl Sutter, Denis Savard, Artemi Panarin, Jeremy Roenick and Eddie Olczyk. Patrick Kane had only 14 even-strength goals as a rookie, and Jonathan Toews had 17.
Hartman’s 19 total goals are the 17th-most by a Hawks rookie, and he has done it while playing only 12:44 per game — far less than Kane (18:21) and Toews (18:40).
Not bad for a guy whose primary goal at the start of the season was to simply make the team.
“I didn’t set any number of goals,” Hartman said after scoring No. 19 on Tuesday in Colorado. “My goal was to make the team, then stay on the team, then produce. Those three segments. As the year went on, we kind of knocked one off [at a time].”
One of the reasons the Hawks sit atop the Western Conference and are among the favorites to win it all is their scoring depth. If Hartman can get one more goal in the last two games of the season — at Anaheim on Thursday and at Los Angeles on Saturday — he’d become the seventh Hawk to hit the 20-goal mark. Last season, the Hawks only had four, three of whom were on the same line.
But Hartman’s offensive numbers are balanced out by his penalty minutes, which have risen dramatically in the second half of the season and earned him a benching in Tampa last week. Coach Joel Quenneville has been pleased with Hartman’s play but needs him to toe the line.
“He has been good for us,” Quenneville said. “Gives us a little bite, being an edgy player, knowing the fine line you have to walk, how the referees are going to be watching you. That’s something that he’s growing in, and there’s still some room to improve in that area. The consistency of his game, being around the net, wanting the puck and coming up with loose pucks is something he’s gotten better at. And he still has room for improvement. He still has upside to his game. He’s had a real nice year, but don’t be satisfied.”
After getting a taste of Stanley Cup success, that shouldn’t be a problem for Hartman.
“It’s been a good year for us all around — we’re first in our division, and we have the playoffs coming up,” Hartman said. “We’re all pretty excited for that.”
NOTE: The Hawks recalled rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling.
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