Ryan Hartman planned to spend Friday in Chicago celebrating the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship before heading to New Jersey for Sunday's NHL draft.
The 18-year-old never dreamed that by the end of the weekend, he'd be wearing the same sweater of the team he grew up in West Dundee cheering for.
Hartman, a right winger who played center for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth (Mich.) Whalers this season, was selected by the Hawks in the first round of the draft with the 30th overall pick.
Hartman, who did not return a message left on his cell phone Sunday night, said in an interview on the Hawks' website that playing for the hometown Hawks was a dream come true.
"My heart was racing," Hartman said of his emotions leading up to the Hawks' pick. "I was like, 'This could happen,' and sure enough, I heard my name being called. I don't think you can top that feeling."
Hartman scored 23 goals and registered 37 assists and piled up 120 penalty minutes in 56 regular-season games with the Whalers this season. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward spent the previous two seasons with the United States National Team Development in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he proved himself as a tough-nosed player whose offense came as an added bonus.
Hartman told reporters Sunday night in Newark, N.J., he plans to return to Plymouth next season, but believes the edge and tenacity he competes with one day will be a good fit with the Hawks. He said he hopes to make the jump to the NHL as quickly as possible.
"I think they'll like [my style] a lot," Hartman said. "All the Chicago fans, a guy like Andrew Shaw – they love those type of players and I think I can bring that to the Blackhawks."
In his first year with the Whalers, Hartman's play-making ability might have been what surprised people most.
“I expected him to be that in-your-face, hard player to play against,” Plymouth coach and general manager Mike Vellucci told the Detroit Free Press last week. “Sacrifice your body, blocking shots. What he exceeded in was his offense. His offense didn’t surprise me because when I scouted him I saw him play and score four goals in one game, but I think his vision is a lot better than people give him credit for and his offensive ability may have surprised some people.”
Heading into the draft, Hartman – who played for several local clubs, including the Crystal Lake Leafs before moving to Michigan – was ranked as the 16th top North American skater by Central Scouting. Hartman also was part of the U.S. U-20 team that won a gold medal in this year's International Ice Hockey Federation world championships.
Hartman called playing on the championship team the highlight of his year – other than being drafted Sunday – a moment that became highly emotional for his parents, who were in attendance at the draft. Hartman said he dealt with some sweaty palms during his nearly three-hour wait to hear his name called, but that being selected by his hometown team made the wait worth it.
"My mom started crying and dad teared up a little bit," Hartman said. "But the family was real emotional – everyone was real happy for me and kind of in disbelief a little bit."
Hartman, who called his draft experience "unbelievable" made no secret about his excitment on his Twitter feed Sunday night.
"So excited to have the @NHLBlackhawks jersey on," Hartman tweeted. "The best jersey in sports, and also coming back to my home town." #gohawks