CHICAGO – After sitting out for a pair of practice sessions and standing up for a handful of interviews Monday, Ryan Hartman exited the locker room and stood behind the glass at the Blackhawks’ practice facility.
Most of the healthy participants at the Hawks’ prospect camp had changed into street clothes, but a few lingered on the ice. Hartman studied forwards Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, both of whom were first-round picks in 2011.
McNeill snapped a low shot that goaltending prospect Mac Carruth pushed aside. Could Hartman have scored on that opportunity?
Danault fired wide of the net with one shot and hit Carruth’s blocker with another. Could Hartman have slipped either of those pucks past the goal line?
Maybe. Maybe not.
One answer is much more clear.
“It’s definitely tough to be on the other side of the glass,” Hartman said.
Hartman, who grew up in West Dundee, waited 18 years, 9 months and 11 days for the Hawks to call his name as their top pick (No. 30 overall) of the 2013 NHL draft. He waited eight days after that for the Hawks’ weeklong prospect camp to open at Johnny’s IceHouse West, less than a mile from the United Center.
As for taking the ice, Hartman will have to keep waiting.
Hartman is limited to off-ice activities as he recovers from shoulder surgery, which he underwent eight weeks ago at the end of his season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound forward played through pain for much of the season but tallied 60 points in 56 games anyway.
Now, Hartman said, he is ahead of schedule to make a pain-free return. He expects to be cleared to skate in two to three weeks and cleared to shoot pucks in four to five weeks.
Being patient isn’t exactly Hartman’s style. He is a high-energy, Scrappy Doo player who has drawn comparisons to antagonists such as Andrew Shaw and Dave Bolland.
Not surprisingly, Hartman is counting down the days until he is able to return to the ice. It’s going to require a bit more time than his frequent trips to the penalty box – he had 120 penalty minutes in 56 games with the Whalers last season.
“I’m really getting anxious right now,” Hartman said.
He’s also getting congratulations from just about everyone who knew him as a kid growing up in the northwest suburbs. Hartman played one season with the Crystal Lake Leafs and several more seasons in West Dundee before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., to be part of the U.S. national development team.
Not long after Hartman headed to Ann Arbor, his family moved to Palatine. Hartman is staying at his family’s house for the duration of the Hawks prospect camp.
It’s normal for an 18-year-old to spend all or part of the summer at home.
What’s not normal is for that 18-year-old to be the first-round draft pick of his hometown team. The same hometown team that won the Stanley Cup weeks earlier.
“I don’t think there’s really any added pressure at all,” Hartman said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got a new team and you’ve got to prove yourself either way.”
Well, first, get healthy.
Then go ahead and prove yourself.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.