Garnet Hathaway has become an intriguing player as of late.
Initially he played in the Flames’ season opener, but was sent down to make way for Jaromir Jagr. Since then, he was playing in the AHL – at least until it was found out Kris Versteeg would be out long-term, and back up he came.
Nobody is going to mistake Hathaway for Versteeg. Versteeg is a smaller, shiftier player; Hathaway’s game is much more physically-oriented. Hathaway certainly doesn’t replace Versteeg’s spot on the powerplay, but when it comes to playing in the bottom six, yeah, he fits in there.
This was addressed a little in the mailbag, but let’s do a deeper dive. When Jagr returns from injury, will that see Hathaway bumped from the third line to the fourth? They’re both right wingers, though Hathaway is a right shot, compared to Jagr’s left. Hathaway can’t really contend with the general mythos that is Jagr, but nobody really can – but like nobody will mistake Hathaway for Versteeg, nobody will mistake his skill set for Jagr’s, either.
Four points in seven games, though.
Hathaway the AHLer
Undrafted, Hathaway was plucked out of Brown University following his senior year. His junior year was his best in the NCAA, 21 points in 33 games being his career high. The Flames got him to join the Abbotsford Heat to close out his 2013-14 season, and liked him enough to not only bring him to training camp, but have him join the Adirondack Heat for a season – and after 36 points in 72 games, sign an NHL contract.
Since then, Hathaway has made NHL appearances each season. In 2015-16, he had 21 points in 44 games for the Stockton Heat; he also made his NHL debut, scoring three assists over 14 games with the Flames.
The 2016-17 season saw him perform even better: 20 points in 31 games for the Heat, while at the NHL level he scored his first career goal and registered five points over 26 games.
That’s brought us to this season. Now 26, Hathaway found himself one of the Heat’s top players, registering 19 points in 18 games before being called back up to the Flames, where he now has his second career goal – and the aforementioned four points in seven games, three of which have come in the past two contests. Recency bias is one thing, but we’ve also got to remember that without Hathaway’s work, the Flames very well may not have won either of those games.
In short: he has just stepped up into the potential to be something a little more.
This is where the disclaimers come out. First off, note the 27% shooting percentage he’s had for the Heat this season: a far cry over the 9-10% he had the two seasons before, and in all likelihood, entirely unsustainable. Lance Bouma and Joe Colborne say hi.
Furthermore, the NHL is a different beast. Remember, Mark Jankowski had eight points in six games this season before he was recalled (seemingly for good), and in the NHL, he has eight points in 22 games so far this season. At the moment we’re talking, at best, third liners.
And also remember that this is Hathaway’s fourth full year as a professional, and only Jankowski’s second. The age gap is relevant, because if you’re 26 and putting up good numbers in what is a development league, well… good. You should be doing that. Marek Hrivik is Hathaway’s age and has 23 points in 20 games for the Heat so far this season.
That’s why Andrew Mangiapane is so exciting: he’s leading the team in scoring as a 21-year-old. It’s why Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington are more intriguing than Tyler Wotherspoon; they’re three-four years younger than him. Age matters when you’re talking minor league stats.
Hathaway the NHLer
All of that being said, you can’t exactly ignore Hathaway’s increased role.
When Matthew Tkachuk gets suspended, the choice is to move Troy Brouwer up to his line. With Jagr out of the lineup, Glen Gulutzan could have just as easily opted to have Brouwer play alongside Sam Bennett and Jankowski. But he didn’t – he chose Hathaway.
Against Montreal, Hathaway played 14:14 – the second most he’s played in his NHL career. Prior to that, he was hovering around 10-11 minutes of ice time. Hathaway got to follow that up with 11:53 against Vancouver: not an earth-shattering number, but still, a little more than he’s been allotted before.
Hathaway has accumulated a couple of minutes of penalty kill time, but that’s as far as he’s gone for special teams. Even with the recent uptick in ice time, he’s averaging 11:20 a game; only Matt Stajan, Curtis Lazar, Tanner Glass, and Freddie Hamilton have had less. The next lowest forwards are Brouwer (12:54, special teams time) and Jankowski (12:55, former AHL linemate, current NHL linemate), and they’re still getting ample more time than Hathaway is.
In other words, if Hathaway wants to completely cement his position on the third line, he’s going to have to keep doing everything he’s doing, and then some. Nobody is going to question his effort or work ethic, but that isn’t always enough. And two good games in a row does not a third line NHLer make.
But let’s give a little more credit where it’s due. Hathaway sat at the bottom of the Flames’ corsi charts, his one-game 39.13% 5v5 CF against the Oilers keeping him under. In this six games since his recall, he’s shot all the way up to 54.66%, including three above-65% efforts against Philadelphia, Montreal, and Vancouver.
In other words: even if Hathaway’s recent offensive outburst fades away, there may be some hope he can still fulfill a responsible role, helping keep the puck in the offensive zone rather than anywhere else. It’s evident his game has grown over the years, even if you ignore his AHL point totals.
Hathaway hasn’t quite received this amount of trust at the NHL level before. He’s definitely getting the best opportunity of his career to date – and results are starting to show.
Whether Hathaway can keep this up or not, all in all, it’s still a pretty good find in an undrafted player.