Wild winger Ryan Hartman starting to look like best bargain in NHL

It gave Hartman, 27, the sense of stability he was looking for at this point in his career, and it gave the Wild a gritty player that they could send over the boards in every situation.

Plus, as Guerin noted at the time, Hartman has yet to reach his full potential.

“I think we can help him become a better player,” Guerin said in April. “He’s been a big contributor so far. And I think there’s more. I believe in him.”

That belief has proven to be well founded as Hartman currently leads the Wild with six goals this season. And he’s scoring in the biggest moments.

Like in Saturday’s thrilling shootout win over the Penguins when he potted the tying goal with a few seconds left in regulation. Or in Sunday’s comeback win over the New York Islanders when he ignited the rally with a top-shelf snipe.

Not bad for a guy who is only making $1.7 million per season and starting to look like the best bargain in the NHL.

“It’s still an 82-game season and there’s still a lot of hockey to play,” Hartman said of his recent hot streak. “Obviously I’d like to continue to do this, and I’m going to strive to do that. But we’ve got a lot of guys that can do it as well.”

Maybe the fact that Hartman is shining as a goal-scorer shouldn’t come as a surprise. There’s a reason the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the first round of the 2013 draft. He always has had a scoring touch, and proved that with his career-high 19 goals during the 2016-17 season.

But Hartman started seeing his role slowly decrease over the course of his career. He found himself playing in the bottom half of the lineup most nights, and while he’s filled various roles since originally signing with the Wild on July 1, 2019, he’s never looked like much of a goal-scorer until this season.

Where has that growth come from?

“He dictated it because of how he plays the game and the passion he plays with,” coach Dean Evason said last week. “Now we need him to stay out of the penalty box. That’s an area that our entire group needs to be better at. But Hartzy plays with an edge and a bite

“We love the way he competes. He’s gotten better and better because of how he plays the game. He brings great leadership in the room as well. He was in the debate when we were putting letters on people. Just a great presence for us, and we’re happy to have him.”

Asked what he’s done differently this season to score more goals, Hartman chalked it up to simply burying his chances. He referenced how he had a handful of breakaways early last season. The punchline?

“I didn’t score on any of them,” he admitted. “Just being a little more opportunistic and bearing down on some opportunities. Nothing really different.”

As long as he keeps scoring, the Wild won’t care how he does it.

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