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Wild center Ryan Hartman returns home with success on his side

Where would the Wild be without Hartman’s 16 goals and 14 assists?

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Boston Bruins
Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) controls the puck against Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) during the third period Jan. 6, 2022, at the TD Garden in Boston.
Brian Fluharty / USA Today Sports
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CHICAGO — Minnesota Wild center Ryan Hartman started feeling sick earlier this week, texted head trainer John Worley, and naturally, thought he might have COVID. Such is life with the Omicron variant still running rampant.

Though he said it felt more like the stomach flu, not COVID, Hartman was worried he might have to miss the road trip to Chicago. Not ideal considering he had a lot of family and friends who already had purchased tickets to watch the Wild play the Chicago Blackhawks.

Luckily for Hartman, he tested negative in the days leading up to the game, and he was expected to be in Friday night’s lineup at the United Center. He was expecting a lot of people at the game, including his girlfriend Lauren, whose boss went so far as to rent a suite at the United Center for the occasion.

“I was a little worried that if it was COVID I’d be missing some time,” said Hartman, 27, who lives in Chicago in the offseason. “I’m feeling a lot better.”

It’s a homecoming for Hartman, who grew up in West Dundee, a suburb about 40 miles outside Chicago. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2013 draft and helped win a Stanley Cup with his hometown team before being traded.

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NHL: Winter Classic-St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) reacts against the St. Louis Blues in the second period of the 2022 Winter Classic ice hockey game Jan. 1 between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Jeffrey Becker / USA Today Sports

Now, Hartman is returning home in the middle of the best season of his career. Where would the Wild be without Hartman’s 16 goals and 14 assists in his third season with the team?

“Yeah, probably not where we are right now,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “He’s been lights out. It’s good to see a guy like that get bumped up to the top line and have success right away.”

As the man in the middle of dynamic playmakers Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, Hartman has found success in the scoring department. It’s reminiscent of his rookie season with the Blackhawks when he put up 19 goals and 12 assists, looking very much like a top prospect the team could build around.

“I played with (Marian Hossa) for most the season,” Hartman said. “Made it easy on me.”

Hartman hasn’t replicated that type of production until this season. He was used in more of a checking role when he played for the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers. He even started his career with the Wild in 2019-20 playing near the bottom of the lineup before being elevated this season.

All the while Hartman knew he could produce at a high level if given the chance.

“That’s what’s kind of happened this season,” he said. “It’s good to play meaningful minutes and be put in a place to help the team.”

Asked about Hartman’s growth as a player, Wild coach Dean Evason praised him for playing the same as he has throughout his career.

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“He’s never changed his style of play,” Evason said. “He doesn’t cheat the game. He’s gritty. He’s played hard. He has a skill set that can produce offensively, and he’s got a chemistry with (Kaprizov and Zuccarello). It’s worked out real well.”

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