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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"UNLEASHING" Hartikainen

How long before Hartikainen will be "unleashed" on the NHL? This man was the "Beast from the East", crushing anything and everything in his way. With his soft hands around the net, his reckless abandon for the puck and his never quit attitude, Hartikainen won many a fan of the Edmonton Oilers faithful. The only question remains, "How long before the beast known as Hartikainen is released?"

I know, I know, I am just trying to soak this for all it's worth. While Hartikainen is not as much a beast as I make him out to be, he is one tough hombre who makes things real difficult for the opposition. I myself was extremely pleased with his play upon being recalled from the AHL. Many had heard good things of him in OKC, some of us saw good things of him in OKC. You can find many great articles written on him and his journey last season in OKC with the Barons, but I don't think anyone really saw what a competitor he was until he arrived here in Edmonton. He literally took the bull by the horns when he got his opportunity at the end of last season and performed well. Personally, I had previously liked what I was seeing from his game, but had no idea of his compete level. As good as this all sounds, there is a problem. Hartikainen is in real tough competition for a opening night roster. I know competition is good, but when your eligible to be sent to the AHL and the other guys your competing against are on one way contracts, the deck is really stacked against you. (I will come back to this and my thoughts on the competition that has been brought in, later during training camp.) So as much as we can guess and play out our version of what the opening night roster should look like, how about we look at the circumstances and the skills that Hartikainen has in his repertoire.

Hartikainen is a left wing, but can also play the right wing. Smyth was not expected in Oilerville, so that threw the roster plan out the window (or so we think). They needed to add a agitator, tough guy and someone who can play the game and check well. Enter Ben Eager, oh did I mention, he's a left winger? Yup! So that puts Hall, Paajarvi, Smyth and Eager on left wing. I highly doubt one of those players sits in the press box so Hartikainen can play. Well if he can play right wing, maybe he can move to the other side. There must be a spot on the right wing? Actually the right side consists of spots taken by Hemsky, Eberle, Omark and Jones. So where does he fit? Unfortunately for him, it means injuries. IMO he is the very first call up on either wing should a injury occur. Oh yeah, I know, Hordichuk is there to fill one spot, but in all truth, Darcy will be a spot player. The guy is tough, and as rough as they can come at his size, but can't play the minutes or bring in the offence that Teemu can bring.

You can find the various skill set that Hartikainen possess on many Oiler blog sites and on scouting websites. But after seeing him a couple times in camps,  live at Rexall, several times on TV, hearing some of the games in OKC and reading all the reports....I think his skills are pretty straight foreward. He is a tough forechecker, hard on the cycle, tough to get off the puck and has fairly soft hands for a player his type. Has a compete level that makes your 'liver quiver' and can be found charging the opposition's net, many times a game. The knock on Teemu early on, was his footspeed, however seeing him play last year after the call up to the Oilers, his footspeed was no longer looking to be as much of a concern.

He's tough, tough as nails and I suspect that is one reason the hard working people of Edmonton love him so much. He's got the appearance of the heart and soul player so many people fell in love with, named Ryan Smyth. Hartikainen truly is what the Oilers have been looking and waiting for. The question, " Is he still a project in the making or is he ready to begin his journey as a Edmonton Oiler"? The most likely scenario will be Hartikainen will be the first call up in place of a injury to a winger. Where he goes from there will be entirely up to him.  If he continues to improve on his game, I believe Teemu has top 9 potential.

We all know injuries are a part of playing hockey and you can never have enough players waiting in the wings. Should Hartikainen get his opportunity early in the season, he very well could force Tambo's hands where a trade is required. My question is not ,"will Hartikainen make the NHL roster full-time"?  but "when will Hartikainen make the NHL roster full-time"?

you can follow me on twitter @revingev

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