Hart and Soul

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

    • Truth

      The poll is a trick question.

      Picking wins could perceievable mean wins in the next three games. However, it could also mean wins in the general context, next year and beyond, in which you would hope for the Oilers to lose the rest of the games and choose higher in the draft.

      Picking losses could mean the exact opposite.

      Picking rebuild is the safe choice.

  • paul wodehouse

    …but i’m still of the mind that there’s time for the likes of T. Hartikainen to develop in the A…

    as i’ve said before he’ll be a monster in the new arena… a Franzen type…not a mule but a thoroughbred hoss…

  • Neilio

    I think it says as much about our crappy drafting and player procurement than anything. Our first round draft picks were failing at an alarming rate back then too.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Also about the weakness of the farm system during that period. With the pantry full of decent prospects and god willing a roster full of actual NHL talent, we might start to see guys getting a year or two of seasoning in the AHL before coming up for good.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    It’s too bad she won’t live…but then again, who does.(Bladerunner)

    Hartikainen looks like he’ll be ready by the end of next yr, probably before Paajarvi.

  • DieHard

    I thought the Oilers were headed to a future that mostly required ELC players to audition in the A. You know, like what Detroit does. Now you’re saying if they don’t make it to the show from Junior the likely hood of a NHL career is remote to a little better than remote. Did I misread this?

    • Lowetide

      The Oilers ARE going to have a lot of kids audition on the farm, far more than they’ve had in the past. The lottery picks (Gagner, Hall, Eberle, this year’s first) are going to take up the skill spots and that leaves the role players–they’ll come from the AHL.

      Remember, this looks at March callups and their springboard to success. A player could make the team this fall and not be counted here.

      Strictly looking at Hartikainen’s deadline and then a match from the past. Closest I could get was Cleary, but there are a lot of failed March callups (as these numbers suggest).

      Plus of course I’m counting only those who managed 300 NHL games. Completely possible for a player to come in and spend 2 or 3 seasons trying to establish themselves ala Pouliot or Nilsson.

      • Shaun Doe

        I know every team probably has examples of this, but at what point does it become worrysome that the organization has been wrong on so many servicable NHL players (Cleary, Chimera, Brodziak, Hejda, Glencross, etc)?

        I understand guys like Glencross were $$ issues so I do not begrudge the organization for that, but on the other guys – they were simply castoff and thrown away.

        • Dutchscooter

          Other teams are not immune; we over analyze the Oilers because they are our team. Ryan Jones, for one, was a waiver pickup. Dan Cleary made two other stops in his NHL career before he figured it out in Detroit.

    • Lowetide

      I’d bet money on him this fall. Oilers have Hall and will sign Smyth, but after that things are kind of fluid. The guy has size, a lot of try and good hands.

      If he can line up with some of those skill guys he’ll pop 20 imo.

  • Lowetide

    The Oil are in tough tonight, they look like tired bunch through that period. Too many minutes against Anaheim for some of those defencemen.

    Nuge looks half gassed tonight. Id be moving Eager up tonight, hes got some energy. Horcoff looks like hes 76 out there.

    Should of moved Omark in, just cause they need someone with energy.

  • Talbot17

    I think Harti makes the team next fall, pending a solid off season or if the Oilers go out and add grit. I actually see him making the opening night line up ahead of Magnus because he can be slotted on lines 1 to 3 (as we have seen) while Magnus seems like a 2nd line lock. At this point i think the Oil still should focus the offseason on defense regardless.