The cavalry arrived just in time for the Plymouth Whalers.
Newcomer Ryan Hartman has filled in impressively at center for a Whalers team desperate after the unexpected departure of Mitchell Heard - and already down a pair of pivots via pro graduation in J.T. Miller and Andy Bathgate.
Despite playing mostly wing over the previous two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, the West Dundee, Illinois native is flourishing in the middle. Hartman is currently riding a seven-game point streak (5-5-10), and has helped keep the Whalers afloat in a revitalized West Division.
Plymouth ran away from the pack last season (47-18-3, 97 pts), but now find themselves in a four-way logjam for first.
Hartman opted to join the OHL last summer - and forego a prior commitment to play NCAA with the Miami RedHawks.
It appears to be a decision that will translate into a higher draft position for Hartman as it allows NHL scouts to assess him against the highest level of junior competition.
Conversely, a player such as Ryan Fitzgerald, a Boston College recruit and a similar type player to Hartman, won't have the same opportunities playing this season with the Valley Junior Warriors of the EJHL.
It will be interesting to see where the pair end up being selected next June.
Ryan Hartman (C, 2013), Plymouth - finished second in scoring for the U-18 NTDP in `11-12 (59-16-25-41) .. a member of the gold medal-winning Team USA entry at the Under-18 World Championships in Brno, Czech Republic (6-2-4-6) .. a skilled playmaker with good hockey sense .. undersized by NHL standards at 5-foot-11 but is a sturdy 185 pounds and plays with a gritty edge .. uses his body and low center of gravity to get inside checks and create separation in traffic .. agitates, chirps, gets under the opponent's skin .. works diligently away from the puck, and finishes checks aggressively .. brandishes his stick at times like a weapon - behind the referee's back .. tends to take undisciplined penalties however - his 47 minutes is currently tied for second-most in the OHL .. a tough competitor with some jam - willingly drives to the hard areas around the net despite his smaller frame .. confident in possession, has the ability to create time and space with shifty stickhandling moves .. a smooth, compact skater with quickness and stability .. takes aggressive edges and possesses strong lateral agility .. turns are tight and effortless .. offense is driven by excellent anticipation and hockey sense .. talented passer with excellent one-touch skills .. has the ability to look off a teammate while delivering a sharp tape-to-tape pass .. must add mass and muscle to a lean upper body, get stronger on the puck while adding balance .. a key cog for the Whalers - will play top-line minutes and be a key part of special teams.