56 Days Until The Regular Season
Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing1 month 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.
I don’t know about you, but I really thought Teemu Hartikainen could’ve turned into something with the Edmonton Oilers.
A June 22, 2008 edition of the Edmonton Journal details the Edmonton Oilers’ 2008 draft class.
But like so many post-1st round draft picks of the Oilers in the mid-2000s and 2010s, Hartikainen never worked out. Now credit where it’s due as his 52 games in the big league were more than deserved.
Drafted as part of the 2008 draft class alongside Jordan Eberle and Johan Motin — who I wrote about Monday — Hartikainen didn’t come to North America until the 2010-11 season. Right away, the Oilers had liked what they saw from him.
“He competes, works hard, he has pretty good hands,” Oilers vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast told the Edmonton Journal after the draft. “His skating needs to improve a little bit, but he’s six-foot-two, 200 pounds and he uses his size.
“He should be on the Finnish junior team at the world championship. I really liked him when I saw him this year. He’s almost a poor man’s (Tomas) Holmstrom. He competes all over the ice.”
After two strong years in the Finnish Elite League that saw him score 32 goals and 56 points in 104 games, Hartikainen was sent down the Oklahoma City Barons out of training camp.
“This is tougher than I thought it would be … you have maybe one second to make a play, then somebody is hitting you. It’s different in Europe,” he told the Edmonton Journal during that 2010 training camp.
Hartikainen took it in stride, and went to the Barons and was dominant in his first season of hockey in North America scoring 17 goals and 42 points in 66 games. And with the Oilers well out of the playoff picture in mid-March, the team called him up from the minors.
“He’s a strong player. Strong-willed,” then head coach Tom Renney said at the time of the recall. “That is certainly something we’re looking for him to add to our lineup.
“I am not surprised that he’s here. I would like it to be under different circumstances.”
And by the end of his 12-game stint, all he did was impress scoring three goals and five points while averaging 17:25 per night in icetime.
He showed well and came into the 2011 training camp down 15 pounds and ready to fight for a lineup spot. While he didn’t think he was too heavy, Hartikainen said his goal was to be “a little lighter, a little faster.”
The winger got some run time with Taylor Hall and rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but wound up being one of the final cuts amid a so-so camp. Similar to the year prior, he took it in stride and put the work in at the AHL level scoring 1 goals and 32 points in 51 games by the end of the year before earning a January recall.
“I had high expectations from him to play hard, but he kind of left me hanging a bit,” Renney said.
Hartikainen would leave the team hanging in his five NHL appearances that month playing just 11:17 per night with no points. Hartikainen would fare well with another late season run scoring two goals and five points in 12 games in March and April.
Pinch me if you heard this before, but Hartikainen’s 2012-13 season — his final in North America — played out all too familiarly. He didn’t show well enough at camp to make the big team, and lit it up in the American League. There, he would score 14 goals and 37 points in 47 games and in the playoffs, added another seven tallies and 15 points in 17 games.
And once again, he would leave the team hanging.
He got a recall in late January 2013, and would play in 16 games scoring a goal and three points before being sent down. He’s returned for seven games late in the year, but wouldn’t score a point.
And when the AHL playoffs ended, it didn’t take long for Hartikainen to return overseas signing a deal with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
What ultimately plagued him in the NHL — his lack of consistency — is something he would find in Russia in his nine seasons with Slavat. He was a consistent 30-40 point producer and over his 472 games scored 157 goals and 355 points — a .75 point per game rate.
Last season, Hartikainen signed with the eventual Swiss league champions in Genève-Servette HC. He scored 28 goals and 43 points with his goal total leading the league. Other ex-Oilers — Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Linus Omark, Yohann Auvitu — were also on that team.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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