Is the largely unheralded forward Teemu Hartikainen playing his way onto the Edmonton Oilers’ roster once the NHL lockout finally ends? If his first 10 games with the Oklahoma City Barons is any indication, Edmonton’s 2008 6th Round draft pick will be doing just that. But more than this, he might be playing himself onto their top six, and pushing the underperforming Magnus Paajarvi to the bottom six.
Not only has Hartikainen produced nine points in ten games–only one behind some kid named Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—but he has also been a mainstay on the team’s first power play unit, having the likes of Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Justin Schultz to play with. Generally-speaking, all you need to do is keep your eyes open and not fall down on the ice when you are with this group and you should pretty much ensure yourself of scoring power play points at will each game, but Hartikainen is doing more than that.
In addition to being a good offensive weapon for the Barons, he is also providing a physical presence that the Oilers sorely need, and will be in even greater need of whenever Ryan Smyth decides to retire. He is crashing the boards, running players over and parking himself in front of the net, a la Captain Canada, and while you can never have too much of this on your team, the Oilers have demonstrated for years just how much a team can suffer when they have far too little of this on their roster. Yes, this is the AHL and not the NHL, but the impression he is leaving is that he is ready to be a major producer in the NHL, perhaps on the Oilers’ second line with Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov, in addition to making himself useful on the power play with the rest of Edmonton’s elite talent.
If it ain’t broke—and by the look of things it certainly isn’t—then perhaps the Oilers won’t try to fix it once the season starts. And if Hartikainen continues to develop the way he has so far, he could turn out to be one of the Oilers’ biggest surprises this season.