For the second spring in a row, Teemu Hartikainen is impressing at the NHL level. Last spring, he played well enough after callup to be considered a strong option (at least by the fanbase) for 11-12. It was not to be. Will this fall be be different for Hartikainen? What does Oiler history tell us?
This is Vladimir Vorobiev. He was a deadline acquisition for the Oilers, spring 1999. Edmonton picked him up from the Rangers (for winger Kevin Brown) and then called him up for 2 games after Billy Guerin got hurt. They were the last 2 goals scored by the Russian in the NHL, and he was back in his homeland playing hockey by 2000 fall.
LATE SEASON CALLUPS THAT HAVE WORKED OUT SINCE 2000
- March 30, 2000: Oilers called up L Dan Lacouture. The club had acquired him in 1997 for Marius Czerkawski, as their ongoing need for big forwards (sound familiar?) led them to make the deal. Lacouture played in 5 games in 00-01, but established himself as an NHL player the following season and got into 337 games in the NHL before heading to Europe.
- March 31, 2000: Oilers recall L Daniel Cleary. It was the third callup to the NHL in the 99-00 season, and the NF native has been in the big leagues pretty much since that day (lockout season). Cleary has been a productive player for a long time, and should probably serve as an "outer marker" for any AHL player.
- March 11, 2003: Oilers recall D Marc-Andre Bergeron: One of the best undrafted free agents ever signed by the Oilers, the undersized defender has now played over 450 games in the NHL. He did spend some time in the minors in 03-04, but the first callup showed he could play.
- February 27, 2006: Oilers recall L Brad Winchester: Big forward had been up and down during the season but has played in 390 NHL games now and has found a role with San Jose. Jobs like Winchester are month-to-month, so it is impressive he’s been able to stay in the NHL for several years in a row (Winchester has been in the AHL for 14 games since fall 2006).
- March 10, 2011: Oilers recall D Jeff Petry: He’d been up previously, but since this recall the defenseman has established himself as an NHL defenseman. Petry would also be a good "outer marker" for defensemen who spend time in the AHL–I doubt we see too many who make the transition as smoothly. He hasn’t exceeded the 300 game mark yet, but injury aside he should clear that hurdle and keep going.
That’s 5 March callups that have resulted in long term NHL employment. How many didn’t have sustain? Well, using the highly underrated Steve’s Oilers Website I count
- March 2000: Kevin Brown, Dan Lacouture, Daniel Cleary
- March 2001: None
- March 2002: Brian Swanson, Sven Butenschon, Ales Pisa
- March 2003: MA Bergeron
- March 2004: None
- March 2005: Owners’ lockout
- March 2006: Brad Winchester, Marc Pouliot
- March 2007: Bryan Young, Robert Nilsson, Sebastien Bisaillon, Danny Syvret
- March 2008: Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney
- March 2009: Marc Pouliot, Theo Peckham, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers
- March 2010: Devan Dubnyk, Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Dean Arsene, Johan Motin, Chris Minard, Charles Linglet
- March 2011: Richard Petiot, Alex Plante, Alex Giroux, Jeff Petry, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra
- March 2012: Linus Omark, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris VandeVelde, Colten Teubert
35 callups and 5 times things worked out long term for the player involved; it’s probably a better percentage, as guys like Dubnyk, Hartikainen, Peckham, Teurbert and others are still prospects with a nice window of opportunity. Even Linus Omark could make it, although it is extremely unlikely it’ll be with the Oilers. Still, it isn’t like there’s tremendous fame and fortune awaiting these players. From the list of "successful" callups, only Cleary, Bergeron and Petry could be described as being quality regulars for their teams.
Note: these are the March callups that I found searching a few sources, although’s Steve’s was the best and all transactions above are from his site. If I missed any, please pass along.
THAT’S NOT VERY WONDERFUL
We shouldn’t expect too many of the AHL kids to emerge as 300+ game NHL players–it simply doesn’t happen that often. The Oilers have procured several talents over the last 4 years who have gone immediately to the NHL, including Hall, Eberle, RNH, Gagner. Paajarvi too, although he’s now an AHL player. The AHL kids are facing an extreme uphill climb, as reflected by the March group.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Starting out life as an AHL regular and ending up as a productive NHL player for 300 or more games is a pretty difficult task (ask Robert Nilsson) and even the truly gifted offensive junior players (like Cleary) are forced to grind their skills into something else again.March also looks like a helluva poor time to impress the coach, because he might not be here in the fall.
Hartikainen has shown well in two different opportunities, but both times the season is spent and the club is looking for injury replacements. Hartikainen’s job–as it was with Cleary–is to impress the coach during September and make the opening night lineup.
The Oilers job is to make sure they don’t miss out on a useful item. Looking around the NHL, we see men like Kyle Brodziak and Jason Chimera who would be quite helpful to the current group. It’s a process for player and team. Teemu Hartikainen is knocking on the door, here’s hoping he does it again in six months the Oilers take the opportunity to open it.