Ryan Hartman is used to the description. During his three NHL seasons, the Wild winger has been called an agitator, a pest, an energizer, a guy no one wants to play against.
That’s the primary reason the Wild signed him as a free agent this summer. Tuesday, in the team’s preseason opener against Dallas, Hartman showed he has something more to offer. He was the only Wild player to score, snapping in a shorthanded goal in the second period of a 2-1 overtime loss.
That’s unlikely to change the way Hartman is perceived. Only a few minutes before his goal, he played his usual role, pummeling the Stars’ Tye Felhaber with six rapid-fire left jabs before hurling him to the ice. Still, the former first-round draft pick appreciated the chance to demonstrate a wider skill set, one that should come in handy for a team in need of scoring depth.
“It’s always been there. I know how to score goals,’’ said Hartman, who got the night off Wednesday in Winnipeg. “The people who have actually watched me know. I’ve always been a guy that can help out offensively.’’
Hartman, who will be 25 on Friday, has 42 goals, 47 assists and 218 penalty minutes in 245 NHL games.
Former Wild General Manager Paul Fenton snapped up Hartman on the first day of the NHL’s free-agent signing period, giving him a two-year deal worth $3.8 million. The winger, who turns 25 on Friday, was drafted 30th overall by Chicago in 2013.
Hartman scored 19 goals in 76 games as a rookie in 2016-17. Over the past two seasons, he has played for three teams—Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia—and was traded to a fourth in June, when the Flyers sent him to Dallas.
Fenton, who said he liked Hartman’s “grizzle,’’ signed him July 1 after Dallas did not make a qualifying offer. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday that he instantly pictured Hartman at right wing on a line with left winger Marcus Foligno, who plays a similar style. Boudreau used them together Tuesday with center Gabriel Dumont, a combination the coach considered the Wild’s most consistent in the loss to the Stars.
Should Hartman and Foligno start the season on the fourth line, Boudreau said they would be “as strong [a fourth line] as we’ve had since I got here.’’ He expects Hartman to gain confidence from his older teammate, allowing both sides of his game to thrive.
“He’s a guy that scored 19 goals [as a rookie],’’ Boudreau said. “And 13 goals last year, in limited time with two teams. I just think the upside is there. He’s still a young man.’’
Though Boudreau said Hartman will have to earn playing time, the coach will try to assist him by giving him positive feedback—another factor that Boudreau anticipates will unlock Hartman’s full potential. Hartman also is entering camp in top condition. For the first time since 2016, he didn’t have any injuries that cut into his offseason training, giving him an entire summer to prepare for the upcoming season.
Foligno said the Wild needs to get more goals from its bottom-six forwards. While he and Hartman will be counted upon to kill penalties, provide muscle and give the Wild dependable defense, he said Hartman is a “very skilled’’ player who can finish a scoring chance as well as a big hit.
“I like the way he brings energy to the game,’’ Foligno said. “I think he’s really good on the forecheck. He’s not shy about getting nasty. He just seems like a guy that can rattle some guys’ cages. But at the same time, like [Tuesday], he can score. We have to provide that depth.’’
Hartman is all in on that challenge.
“When I’m playing my best, I’m generating two, three, four grade-A chances a game,’’ he said. “When I get those opportunities, I have to make sure I capitalize. In this day and age, that secondary scoring is very important.’’