4. Ryan Hartman
Speak of players having career years and the first name that should come up is forward Ryan Hartman. From early on in the season Hartman was asked to step out of his comfort zone and switch positions from right wing to center. This speaks to the true lack of depth at this position.
A true “number one” center is a player that can dominate both ends of the ice, win face-offs, set up their teammates, run the offense, and make creative plays that lead to their team scoring. Ryan Hartman was a third or fourth line winger during his time on the Wild. He was a grinder and was very good in that role, which is why his contract was extended. Oh, and he is still listed at right wing on NHL.com.
Since centering the first scoring line, Hartman has responded beyond anybody’s realistic expectations. He currently is second on the team in goals with 29, and is setting career high in other categories including both assists (27) and points (56). His two-way play and toughness has been equally impressive. The only knock on Hartman is his ability in the face-off circle.
Again, he has not really been an NHL center. Are his number this good because he centers Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello? Maybe. But this top line has been amazing. If the Wild are going to go far this postseason they are going to need secondary scoring from Hartman and the grit and toughness that he naturally brings to the table. Oh, and that nasty streak he has (ask Evander Kane how he feels) is a bonus.