There are reports indicating that Edmonton Oilers forward Teemu Hartikainen is set to leave the NHL and sign on with the Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL. Craig Custance of ESPN.com was the first to tweet this news on Monday, which was later re-posted by Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal.
The Oilers have not confirmed this transaction, at least not at the time of this post being written. Then again they only had to introduce their new head coach Monday afternoon which is of higher importance.
Hartikainen is a young Oilers prospect with a big frame that has the potential to develop into a power forward. Standing in at 6’1″ and 215 pounds, the 23-year old has the makeup of bruising forward Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins, minus the scoring touch; at least for now.
Over the past three seasons with the Oilers, Hartikainen has only played in 52 combined games. Over that span he’s scored just 6 goals and added 7 assists while producing a modest minus-10 rating to go with 16 penalty minutes.
This past season saw Hartikainen play in 23 games, roughly half of the regular season that was by far the most of any of the previous two seasons in Edmonton. He has struggled to find himself consistently in the lineup with the Oilers, leaving many wondering if he has the game to contribute at the highest level.
Set to become a restricted free agent this summer, Hartikainen would likely be re-signed by the Oilers if he forgoes on the KHL. Making $875,000 last season, courtesy of Capgeek.com, the young Finland native would have been in for a raise, albeit a moderate one at best.
With changes forthcoming in Edmonton, it’s difficult to say that Hartikainen would have a spot on the Oilers next season. Failing to live up to the hype that the Oilers had in him, it may be easier for the hockey club if they watch him head overseas.
Of course you could argue that power forwards who play a gritty game are exactly what the Oilers are short on and now they’re down one more prospect.
Hartikainen’s game hasn’t evolved to the point where he can play on one of the top two lines, to bang and crash and create room for star players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov. Rather he’d likely be a fourth line player next season, limited to ice-time and forced to make the most of his chances when he’s on the ice.
He did show some tremendous upside when playing for the AHL affiliate Oklahoma City Barons over his three years in North America, courtesy of McCurdy from the Journal: 164 GP, 45-66-111, +6, 69 PiM. Again, it’s the ability to transform that minor league success into the big leagues that many prospects struggle with and now Hartikaninen could be put in that same category, especially if he heads to the KHL. We’ll be left wondering, what if?
For more news and analysis on the Edmonton Oilers, follow us on Twitter @OilonWhyte.