35 isn't just a goalie number anymore. Photo by Candace Riley, © 2011, All Rights Reserved.
At the end of last season, Teemu Hartikainen was one player that I would have given a huge chance at being on the Oilers this season. With the additions that the Oilers made this off-season however, I think Teemu may have been pushed out of the NHL opening day roster. Being on the farm, as much as I hate that it may happen that way for him, I'm more than happy to welcome him back to OKC for another period of time.
Hartikainen started off his first professional season in North America with a bang, forever etching his name in Barons history by scoring the franchise's first goal. With Colin McDonald finding success on the top line, Hartikainen took over his role in the bottom six. Hartikainen had some trouble on the defensive side of the ice, posting a -8 in October while adding four goals and an assist.
When Ryan O`Marra went down with an injury in November, Hartikainen saw time with Liam Reddox and Linus Omark to great success. Hartikainen's grittyness along the boards proved to be a great asset in Reddox and Omark's finishing. WIth the call-ups of Omark and O'Marra, Hartikainen joined Reddox within the top six, and his stats began to soar.
As Derek has mentioned before, Hartikainen seems to follow a trend of slow starts that lead into a strong midseason. With the call-ups coinciding with that, it's tough to say whether it was his normal trend, or if it was the timing of moving up onto a scoring line that attributed to it. December saw Hartikainen score three goals and four assists in the nine games that he moved up the depth chart, and posted his first "plus" month with a +2.
January saw a change of call-ups, with Omark making a brief return and Reddox replacing O'Marra in Edmonton. Hartikainen found himself on a line with Milan Kytnar and Philippe Cornet, making up a very surprising "Kid Line." In the month of January while playing together, Hartikainen used his skills along the boards to put up 10 assists while adding 4 goals in 15 games. He posted a +8 to bring his season +/- total back up to a -1.
The scoring of the Kid Line fizzled out as February began. Hartikainen suffered through a six-game scoreless streak, but the call-up of Mark Arcobello helped fill the void and spark Hartikainen. With Chris VandeVelde centering them, Hartikainen scored three goals and seven assists in his final games with the Barons during the regular season. Hartikainen was called up to the Oilers and impressed in a very short amount of time in Edmonton. He returned to the Barons for the playoffs, but the Hamilton Bulldogs were able keep Hartikainen in check, and he only reached the scoresheet with an assist in Game 4.
With a lot of power play time in the latter half of the season, Hartikainen showed that even without being the one to put the puck in the net he can still be a big part in it ultimately getting there. WIth a full season of North American play under his belt, I'm excited to see how he attacks this season. If he does ultimately end up back in OKC for the start of next season, I'll be more than happy to see him back. I know it probably won't last long, so I'll enjoy it while it does.