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25 Days Until The Season Begins

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Photo credit:Andy Devlin
Cam Lewis
7 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 25 we have Joni Pitkanen, one of the one-and-dones who played for the Oilers following their ’06 playoff run.
Pitkanen was a highly-touted defenceman out of Finland and the Philadelphia Flyers selected him with the fourth-overall pick in the 2022 draft. He spent his post-draft season playing in Finland’s top professional league and was named top defenceman at the 2003 World Juniors.
The Flyers brought Pitkanen overseas for the 2003-04 season and he immediately jumped into playing in the NHL. Pitkanen scored 27 points over 71 games and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. He spent the 2004-05 season in the AHL because of the NHL lockout and helped the Philadelphia Phantoms win the Calder Cup.
Pitkanen had a big season for the Flyers in 2005-06 after the lockout ended. He scored 46 points over 58 games and the Flyers cruised into the playoffs with a 45-26-11 record. The team took a huge step backward in 2006-07 and finished dead last in the league standings.
Meanwhile, the Oilers had gone through a similar decline. They reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, lost Chris Pronger and multiple other veterans in the off-season, and then imploded the following season. Edmonton dealt Joffery Lupul, one of the players they got back for Pronger, and captain Jason Smith to the Flyers for Pitkanen and Geoff Sanderson.

Edmonton Journal Newspaper Clipping From July 2, 2007.

The Oilers were trying to fill the hole left by Pronger on their blueline and they hoped that Pitkanen could be the puck-moving defenceman that the team badly needed. Pitkanen got injured in the first month of his first season with the Oilers and took a little while to get settled when he returned. He wound up scoring 26 points over 63 games while logging 24:07 per night on average.
The Oilers missed the playoffs and the team again made a handful of moves in the off-season. Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene were sent to the L.A. Kings for puck-moving defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky and then Pitkanen got shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes shortly after in exchange for winger Erik Cole.
Pitkanen had three very successful seasons in Carolina, including a run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2008-09, but his career ultimately got derailed because of injury. He was limited to 30 games in 2011-12 and 22 games in 2012-13 before a heel injury kept Pitkanen out for all of 2013-14.
Pitkanen tried to make a comeback with Kärpät, the team he previously played for in Finland, but it lasted only three games. He retired following the 2015-16 season and has since worked for the Canes as a European scout.

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