Ryan Hartman's name floated in the world of hockey long before he laced up for his first professional game eight months ago.
He was ranked 16th among North American skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings in his draft year, going on to fulfill expectations when the Chicago Blackhawks chose him No. 30 in the 2013 NHL Draft. Though the wing was born in South Carolina, he grew up in Chicago, making an already memorable day that much more surreal.
"It probably took until a couple weeks after [to sink in]," Hartman said. "After the draft, I went down to South Carolina for two weeks with my family to relax and get away from hockey and celebrate a little bit. When I got back to Chicago, it definitely sank in that I was drafted."
It's something every athlete dreams of: Spending their formative years idolizing the local team and molding their game after the greats, only to one day be able to have the chance to wear that same jersey. Hartman, 20, is hoping to join players like Chris Chelios and Ed Olczyk as Illinois natives given the chance to eventually skate for the Blackhawks rather than just cheering from the stands.
But before Hartman can officially introduce himself to the Madhouse on Madison, he is practicing the right steps that will lead him to the next level with Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.