Monday, September 12, 2011

The Development of Teemu Hartikainen

Teemu Hartikainen made a lasting impression on many Oiler fans and followers during his 12 game stint at the end of last season. He did everything possible to leave his mark and rest assured the coaching staff took notice. The grit and determination the kid showed was very refreshing and his willingness to drive to the net was a sight for sore eyes. His game is similar in aspects to both Ryan Smyth and Tomas Holmstrom but he’s much more physical than either of those players. For years, Smyth and Holmstrom have been a handful for teams to handle down low but Hartikainen relishes the physical aspect of the game on top of the battles down low. He comes across as wanting to engage the opposition into physical contact, if at all possible. The edge that he carries on the ice will serve him well throughout his NHL career.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Hartikainen will start the season in Oklahoma with the Barons. The re-signing of Ryan Jones and the addition of Ben Eager will make it nearly impossible for him to make the club out of camp. Those two have the fourth line spots sewn up and to have Hartikainen in Edmonton as anything other than a regular makes no sense at all. That being said, I would expect almost any injury upfront would see him returning to Edmonton in a heartbeat. Having him play a ton in Oklahoma and hopefully developing chemistry with Anton Lander, should serve both of the youngsters well in the not too distant future. They will fill out two thirds of the Oilers third line for many years and both seem to have the ability and drive in their games that could allow them to move up a notch and possibly become top six forwards down the line.
Magnus Paajarvi should be ready to earn a shot as a full time top six player in the 2012-2013 season and I see both Lander and Hartikainen at the same point being able to make the jump to start anchoring the Oilers third line. With their likely linemate being one of Ryan Smyth or Linus Omark, the two will be part of a line that will be a treat to watch on many nights.

Personally, the addition of Temmu Hartikainen to the Oilers forward group this coming season was a move that I was hoping to see. At the same time, it seems clear that a little more seasoning may just be what is needed in his development and have him ready to make a big impact on the Oilers upon his arrival in Edmonton full time. Considering he is only 21 years of age, I’m pretty confident I will have many a season to watch him in Oilers silks.

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