Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Besides already being Derek Zona's favourite hockey player, Teemu Hartikainen has started to open some eyes and show that he belongs in the NHL.
Teemu Hartikainen has already blown away his draft position. That much has been clear for some time. However, accepting that as fact, exceeding draft position alone is not good enough anymore. The expectations have changed and he is now expected to be a regular contributor at the NHL level.
The good news is...he's starting to meet those expectations with some regularity as well.
#56 is exactly the kind of player the Edmonton Oilers are longing for. He's big (6'1", 215 lbs) he's hard on the puck and protects it well when he has it, and he's relentless in pursuit of it when he doesn't. He's also not afraid to throw his weight around either. Really, other than changing his heritage to North American, I don't know what else he could do to earn the good graces of the mainstream media in Edmonton. In recent weeks, there has been an onslaught of demand for guys that are "hard to play against", including suggestions to pick up a few goons off the waiver wire. While he is not currently in the line-up (on IR nursing a shoulder injury), Hartikainen is pretty much the definition of what it means to really be "hard to play against", he just doesn't get the credit for it.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Michael||Ryan||Scott|
I don't want to make it sound like this is a perfect player. We here at Copper & Blue occasionally get called out for attaching our loyalties to certain players without acknowledging their shortcomings. He could certainly score more, particularly at even strength, and he's not a tremendous skater in open ice. Still, he plays a low down cycle game in the offensive zone and does so very effectively. That alone puts him in rare company on the current Oiler roster. When on a line with fellow underrated forward Magnus Paajarvi, they have shown some great ability to pin an opposing team down in their own end and eat minutes off the clock.
The only problem with that is that those skills are of greatest use to a team when they have a lead...and that is something the Oilers aren't getting very often this season. The next step for Hartikainen is to learn to create more offense off of his strong possession game. He's becoming a really nice piece to add to the Oilers' powerplay, playing the famed "Ryan Smyth" role now that Smyth is reaching an age where he has difficulty dealing with the physical tole that job can take on a player's body. Teemu has found a home screening opposing goalies and looking for rebounds to shovel into the net and that's a good thing.
If Hartikainen can find a way to help contribute to 5v5 scoring a little more often (which is something the entire team has struggled with this season), then he'll become an absolutely invaluable part of this forward group over the next few seasons. If he can score 12-14 goals a season at even strength and add a few more with the man advantage, we could be talking about a 20 goal, 40 point player who can play a physical game and hold possession in the offensive end as good as anyone on the team not named Taylor Hall.
It should be noted that this is still Hartikainen's first real season in the NHL and that he's only had a few auditions until this point. If he is given an opportunity to consistently play in the top 9, if not the top 6 and can figure out how to contribute regularly in that capacity (something that is well within his capability), then this player is basically everything, and I mean EVERYTHING the Oilers are looking for up front.
They say that success is found when hard work meets opportunity. I don't think there is anyone who questions Hartikainen's effort level or "hard work". Now is the time for him to receive the opportunity. Success awaits.
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