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A row of pucks were lined up in front of Ryan Hartman, whose objective was to fling each one at the net during the skills competition at the 2016 American Hockey League All-Star Classic.

"They were all top shelf and the one hit the crossbar that didn't go in," recalled Hartman's dad, Craig. "He just sniped five shots and four of them went in. Nobody was even close to that."

When the drill was over, Hartman acknowledged the goalie with a stick tap to the pads.

The event was supposed to show off the netminders, not the shooters.

"It was pretty cool," Craig Hartman said.

After debuting with the Wild as a gritty fourth-liner, Hartman has become an artery for offense as the team's leading goal-scorer and one of the top finishers in the NHL nearly two months into the season.

This evolution hasn't replaced Hartman's other attributes: He still hits and kills penalties while playing with a rugged edge. But other sectors of the forward's skill set have seized the spotlight, like a stealthy shot that's been in his repertoire long before this recent outpouring of offense.

"You look at golf, everyone's got their own golf swing," Hartman said. "No one has the same swing, and everyone works on that because that's how they've done it their whole life."

Plenty of practice

The origin story behind Hartman's wind-up doesn't follow a Marvel movie script.

There wasn't one situation that inspired it, no flashpoint in his coming-of-age journey that turned this style of shot into his signature.

Instead, Hartman credits the development to the influence of the variety of coaches he had growing up and simply slinging pucks, which he did on and off the ice.

His dad built a rink at the house they rented in Ann Arbor, Mich., while Hartman played for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program and in the Ontario Hockey League. In the spring, Craig Hartman would discover hundreds of pucks in the adjacent park.

But Craig Hartman first noticed his son's shot at that AHL All-Star Game when Hartman was with Rockford, the affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks who drafted him in the first round 30th overall in 2013.

"These goalies had no idea where the puck was going," Craig Hartman said.

Waiting game

That deceptiveness stems from a delayed release, which Hartman achieves by dragging the puck from the toe of the blade to the heel before letting go.

Quick snap shots are the norm, but by keeping the puck on his stick longer, Hartman can catch the opposition off-guard.

"When guys are releasing it off different parts of their stick and from different angles and when you can change the angle as a shooter and still have that kind of accuracy, it's an elite shot," Wild goalie Cam Talbot said. "It's really tough to stop."

By no means is this technique a textbook move.

Teammate Nick Bjugstad watched Hartman last season and had to work on Hartman's method during the summer.

But this is how Hartman, a righty, has attacked pucks this season, which has the potential to be his best yet.

"He definitely has a unique release," Bjugstad said, "and I think that's the difference-maker."

Shooting and scoring

Of Hartman's team-leading 13 goals, only two have been deflections.

The rest have been shots, including three one-timers and a backhander.

Overall, he is tied for eighth in goals in the NHL (third in even-strength tallies at 12) and is tied for third in game-winning goals with four. He's also a league-best plus-22 and is on pace to shatter the career-high 19 goals he scored as a rookie with Chicago in 2016-17.

Hartman's overtime goal Oct. 23 vs. Anaheim, a far-corner delivery from inside the left faceoff circle, is an example of his patented shot with some curl to it.

He also had a similar release Thursday against New Jersey, with Dmitry Kulikov cleaning up the rebound for the Wild's fourth goal in a 5-2 victory.

Although the shot isn't responsible for all his goals — the execution does require time and space — Hartman is deploying it throughout games, and that could make him a challenge to defend.

On Nov. 28 vs. Tampa Bay, Hartman used that type of shot against goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy early in the third period and didn't score, but he did capitalize later in the game — pouncing on a puck while he moved backward.

"He's one of those guys where any time he comes down, the puck could go in," Talbot said. "He has that kind of control and can put it in a puck-size hole in the net. That's just how accurate he is with it."

New opportunity

While his shot isn't new, Hartman's opportunity is.

He is centering the dynamic duo of Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, has become a regular on the power play for the first time with the Wild and is averaging two more minutes per game than last season.

Hartman has eight points during a career-long five-game point streak and 21 total, the second-most on the team behind Kaprizov's 28. Hartman's 84 shots also lead the team and sit ninth in the NHL.

All this comes on the heels of Hartman, 27, signing a team-friendly three-year, $5.1 million contract extension last April.

"I like to shoot," Hartman said. "There's been times in my career where I've passed up shots to try to make a play. [General Manager Bill Guerin] talked to me last year when we were in Vegas. On a 2-on-1, I tried passing it and they smacked it down. He's like, 'Just shoot the puck. You got an open shot. Why are you trying to make a fancy play? You're not a fancy player.' "

He is an effective one, especially lately.

Hartman's dad used to get 15 to 20 text messages from friends after Hartman scored. Now he doesn't get any.

"People are starting to not want to bother me," Craig Hartman said, "because it's happening more frequently."