August 25 2011 09:19PM
If I was putting together the next edition of the Edmonton Oilers, Teemu Hartikainen would be on the 23-man roster. But I'm not, and I doubt he will be when the 2011-12 season opens, despite what I considered an impressive debut last season.
In that regard, as in starting the year on the Oilers roster, this season could be perceived as something of a step back for the 21-year-old Finnish winger known in the dressing room as Harski.
Despite turning some heads in 12 games with the Oilers last season, a stretch in which he scored 3-2-5 and went minus-3 while averaging 17:25 of ice time a game. when I look at Edmonton's depth chart, I see Hartikainen destined for a ticket to Oklahoma City.
As good a showing as Hartikainen had when summoned to fill one of the holes in a roster riddled by injuries, I was hoping to see more of him this season. I don't see that being the case now unless the injury bug strikes early and often in pre-season.
Where does he fit?
TOO MUCH DEPTH?
It seems laughable, and is, to suggest that a team that finished 30th for a second season in a row has too much depth to take a long look at a big-bodied banger with some skill like Hartikainen.
It's more a case of too many bodies, as opposed to too much proven depth, with the addition of necessary veteran components in Ryan Smyth and Eric Belanger and toughness in Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk to find room for the six-foot-three, 215-pound Finn.
If coach Tom Renney keeps 14 forwards to start the year, how does he find a place for Hartikainen? On left wing, there's Taylor Hall, Smyth, Magnus Paajarvi and Eager.
Down the middle, it looks like Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff and Belanger with Anton Lander and Gilbert Brule contesting the position. While it's not guaranteed Nugent-Hopkins will be here beyond nine games, I don't see Hartikainen in the middle.
On the right side. it stacks up as Ales Hemsky, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark and Ryan Jones, no?
At this point, Hartikainen projects as a bottom-six forward, so who from the mix of Paajarvi and Eager, Horcoff and Belanger or Omark and Jones does he displace?
I'm not talking about trying to fast-track Hartikainen. Despite how he looked at the end of last season, a dozen NHL games doesn't give fans or coaches a clear or complete picture. He is, again, only 21. But, like I said, what I saw last season left me wanting more.
Contract situations and waiver considerations being what they are, it looks like those who feel the same way, like Hartikainen, will have to wait, unless he so clearly outperforms somebody ahead of him, there's no choice but to keep him.
Even if he does, we've seen how that often doesn't change the pre-determined pecking order going into training camp and pre-season -- think Omark a year ago -- that is laid out on the organizational chart on the wall in the coaching office at Rexall Place.
My guess is the ETA on Hartikainen is likely closer to January than it is October. That's not necessarily a developmental-derailer or a big blow, assuming somebody takes Hartikainen aside and explains the lay of the land, which obviously wasn't done to Omark's satisfaction a year ago.
Once again, patience is the word of the day.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.