Can Ryan Hartman Stay On Top?

Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP

Ryan Hartman, 28, has been playing as the top-line center for a while now. It’s an unlikely place for the gritty center, but so far, he’s been the Minnesota Wild’s best option. Playing between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello led to Hartman having the two best scoring seasons in his career. Hartman also managed to have career-high PIMs the past two seasons. In 2021-22, Hartman had 95 penalty minutes. In 2022-23, Hartman racked up an impressive 90 penalty minutes despite being out a good chunk of the season.

Last Season

Hartman only played 59 games last season due to an upper-body injury sustained during a fight with Jarred Tinordi of the Chicago Blackhawks in October. Despite being absent for a good chunk of the season, he still managed 37 points. That makes this past season his second-best, behind only the 2021-2022 season when he ended up with 65 points.

Strengths

Hartman is a gritty, determined player who isn’t afraid of the physical side of hockey. He’s recognized the advantage of being on a line with Zuccarello and Kaprizov and made the most of it. Hartman has shown that he can also be a prolific scorer when he’s on a productive line.

Weaknesses

While Hartman isn’t afraid to drop the gloves, he sometimes lets his emotions get to him. Remember the time he flipped the bird on live television? He also isn’t the best center. Before he was thrust in between Zuccarello and Kaprizov, he mostly played right wing. With a mediocre faceoff percentage of 42.91 last year, it’s a bit of a conundrum to find him playing on the top line. With the GREEF line now broken up, will Joel Eriksson Ek take the first-line center spot from Hartman? Ek is arguably the best center on the team.

Next Season

Ryan Hartman has one more year left on his contract. Look for Hartman to step up his game while he’s looking to sign another contract. Perhaps he’ll be able to leverage his first-line status and have another career-high season. Could he score more than 65 points? Maybe, but it would depend on whether or not he can stay in his spot on the top line. It would not be a surprise if he’s downgraded to the second or third line. If Hartman is moved to a different line, it’ll be interesting to see if his point production keeps up with the past two years.

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