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Hockey: West Dundee’s Ryan Hartman in showcase game

Ryan Hartman skates during Team USA game against Sweden Aug. 6 Lake Placid N.Y. | Phocourtesy Nancie Battaglia

Ryan Hartman skates during a Team USA game against Sweden on Aug. 6 in Lake Placid, N.Y. | Photo courtesy of Nancie Battaglia

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:46AM

Ryan Hartman must wait until the June NHL draft before he knows exactly where he winds up going, but the mere fact he’ll play Saturday in Buffalo indicates some important people think highly of his skills.

The West Dundee resident and former youth player for the Crystal Lake Leafs plays in the first CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at First Niagara Center with an eye on going high in the draft.

“It’s pretty cool,” Hartman said. “I know a lot of the guys that are there. It’ll be nice to see some of their faces again. And it’s an honor to be picked to play in this game. It’ll be exciting to play at the Sabres’ rink.”

Hartman plays Saturday for the all-star team coached by NHL great Phil Housley, and the friendly faces he’ll see are mostly those who played with him last year on the U.S. team that won the IIHF under-18 world championship. Northbrook’s J.T. Compher, Jared Rutledge of Chicago and Anthony Louis of Winfield are area players also involved.

Hartman currently plays for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League after spending the last two years with USA Hockey’s national development program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The whole experience has been something I can’t really measure,” he said.

Hartman’s younger brother, Tanner, and mother, Kim, moved up to Ann Arbor so the family could stay together, and his father, Craig, came up on weekends while Ryan attended Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School.

As he went through the USA Hockey program, he had a choice to make of accepting a scholarship to Miami of Ohio for hockey or immediately going pro. He chose the pro route and the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing led his team in scoring after two games with three points.

“It wasn’t that hard (of a decision) because when you sign a contract with the Ontario league, after the first game your four years of college will be paid for,” he said.

The Ontario league is a higher level of play.

“The pace is definitely faster,” he said. “I don’t want to say better hockey, but it’s pretty well organized and really an offensive game. I’ve enjoyed it so far and adjusted. I think I’m a great fit.”

Now Hartman is looking at the draft closely. He’ll have a bit better idea of where he’s going to wind up going after NHL Central Scouting comes out with its ranking of prospects.

“You hear things on the internet or people talking, from family and friends and I’ve been hearing everything from late first round to second or third round,” Hartman said. “I’m not too worried about it. Just getting drafted is an honor.”

It’s been Hartman’s goal since the time he started skating at age 3. As he went along in youth hockey, he drew some inspiration from a unique relation of sorts — one of the all-time greats, Mark Messier.

“My dad used to show me videos of Mark Messier,” Hartman said. “My dad was a huge Mark Messier fan but I never saw him play. I watched a lot of stuff on him on the internet, documentaries.”

The connection goes beyond that, however.

“My grandma’s friend’s older sister married Messier,” Hartman said. “So I have pictures autographed from him ‘to Ryan, from Mark.’

“It was nice as a kid to be getting pictures autographed from a guy that famous. He was always one of the best leaders in the NHL.”

Hartman tries to provide leadership with his Plymouth team even if he is one of the younger players.

“I’m not wearing the ‘C’ or the ‘A’ but I try to be positive on the bench and have other guys look up to me, see how I play, and try to keep people up if we’re down on a shift,” he said.

In terms of Hartman’s actual playing style, “I feel like I get up the ice pretty fast,” he said. “I like to play a physical game, take the body a lot. It’s always seemed there have been open (scoring) opportunities for me.”

Hartman is only just beginning to realize what kind of opportunities are ahead on a larger scale.

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