One man’s misfortune can be another’s lucky break, and it’s certainly shaping up as such for strapping Finnish forward Teemu Hartikainen as the Edmonton Oilers prepare to open training camp.
While the 22-year old winger would have had a shot at a roster spot this season because he brings dimensions lacking at forward – size and a measure of physicality combined with decent offensive instincts – Harski’s chances of landing an NHL job improved with news Ryan Jones won’t be ready to start the season after suffering an eye injury.
Having upped his stock with the Oklahoma City Barons by scoring 11-15-26 in 35 games, where and how Hartikainen might fit in with Jones out of the mix is an interesting question. He’s shown enough sense around the net to lead some people to conclude he might be worth a look-see in the top-six. He’s got enough grind in his game to play in the bottom six and maybe score a bit, too.
What to do with Harski?
COACH SAYS . . .
"His development has been strong in that he worked hard in the summer and early in the season he was really pushed to be a physical specimen down in Oklahoma City," coach Ralph Krueger told Jason Gregor today.
"He is an interesting option as we look to bring five forward lines and four sets of D into training camp with the injuries to Ryan Jones and Andy Sutton. We will need one defensemen and two forwards from Oklahoma City and Teemu is a good guess on your part for having an opportunity.
"Especially because he brings something unique to the table. Down on the power play in Oklahoma City, he was the net-front presence that allowed Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Arcobello and Justin Schultz to have so much success of late.
"So, there’s been some interesting things that he’s developed and grown in the direction we’d like to see and he also has a mean streak in him and can play tough physically, which is an important asset that we’ll be needing in our line-up."
WHERE DOES HE FIT?
While I’m not so sure about the mean streak Krueger mentioned, there’s no question, at six-foot-two and 215 pounds, Hartikainen is the kind mix of size and reasonable skill Krueger can put to use with this group of forwards.
With 5-5-10 in limited duty through 29 games with the Oilers, including three call-ups last season, we’ve seen glimpses of potential. Harski is neither simply a big-bodied glass-rattler nor is he a pure offensive player. He can score some. He bangs a bit. So, where does he fit? Depends.
I don’t know if Krueger will plug rookie Nail Yakupov into the second line on left wing right away. If he doesn’t, might Hartikainen start out playing with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky? If Yakupov gets the nod to start as the left winger on that line, then Hartikainen might be a good fit on the right side with Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff on the third line.
At this point in Hartikainen’s young career the safe bet, and my inclination, would be to ease him in as primarily a third-line player – where Jones is best-suited – and then take it from there based on what Krueger sees.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.