NHL Salaries

Is Ryan Hartman’s Breakout campaign sustainable?

It was a breakout campaign for seemingly every member of Minnesota’s front nine. Kirill Kaprizov eclipsed the 100-point mark for the first time in franchise history. Kevin Fiala’s 85 points trail only Kaprizov in Minnesota’s single-season record books. Mats Zuccarello has had the most productive season of his career at 34. Joel Eriksson Ek, Freddy Gaudreau and Marcus Foligno also posted career highs in points.

But perhaps the most shocking breakout campaign came from Ryan Hartman, who spent most of the season centering the incredible wing tandem Kaprizov and Zuccarello. His emergence came at the right time for Minnesota, which entered this season with a lot of uncertainty at center. Eriksson Ek thrived in the shortened 2021 season, but Evason didn’t seem keen on separating him from the GREEF line. Marco Rossi wasn’t quite ready to take on a role at the top of the depth chart and started the season at Iowa. Gaudreau was nothing more than a mid-depth option. That left Hartman, who took a pay cut to stay at Minnesota through 2023-24, as a de facto top center.

Hartman took the opportunity to play alongside the electric Kaprizov and ran with him. He had 65 points (34-31-65), good for fourth on the team behind only his teammates and Fiala. Hartman averaged 29.4 points per 82 games over the previous seven NHL seasons, an unexpected increase in production.

The question now becomes, is this level of production sustainable next season? And can Minnesota afford to bring Hartman back to earth?

As for his durability, the numbers at the surface level suggest this will be a tough campaign for Hartman to follow. His 34 goals exceeded his expected goal tally of 7.62. His 14.2 shooting percentage was only the second time he had shot over 10% in his career. Now, going over expected goals and shooting around 15% is standard protocol for most NHL snipers, but Hartman doesn’t have the career reputation for backing durability.

Conversely, Hartman has never played significant minutes with a player like Kaprizov before this season. Hartman often found himself on the receiving end of fine passing plays from Kaprizov and Zuccarello.

And if he didn’t score via those passing plays, he picked up unnecessary goals around the net.

His hard and gritty nosed style created a nice contrast to his ultra-skilled linemates. Hartman did the dirty work that made life for his wingers so much easier, and vice versa. Kaprizov’s speed and Zuccarello’s creativity opened space for Hartman to get into dangerous areas. Together they formed a formidable trio at the top of the Wild depth chart. There are few reasons to suggest that next season will be different.

And yet, the durability of Hartman’s game is still a real concern as Minnesota prepares for a turbulent offseason. Fiala has one foot out, and the Wild will have to account for its production. Say Rossi steps in and scores 50 points in his rookie season, there are still around 35 points left to replace.

However, there is also no guarantee that Foligno will surpass his expected goals by almost 10 goals. Foligno has shot 23.2% this season, a feat unlikely to be repeated next season.

Luckily for Minnesota, even though Hartman is regressing to earth, his contract is still a bargain. According to Dom Luszczyszyn’s NHL player cards, Hartman has provided $5.9 million in excess value this season. That trails only Matt Boldy ($6.4 million) for the team’s highest surplus value. It’s never a bad thing to pay deep bucks for a high-end production.

Will Hartman continue his exceptional game next season? The numbers suggest he is in at least some regression, although he continues to center a 100-point winger. Wild fans are no doubt hoping that this season hasn’t been a fluke and that this version of Hartman is here to stay for at least the next two seasons.