Usually it takes time for a rookie to make an impression on his NHL bosses. For Philadelphia Flyers
defenseman Oskars Bartulis
, it took just 10 games.
At least that's all Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
needed to see to sign the Latvian defenseman to a three-year contract extension.
"Oskars has developed nicely over the past two years and fit in nicely with our team," Holmgren said. "We are happy to have him under contract and are pleased to know he is part of our defensive group for the next several years."
Bartulis, 22, has 2 assists, six penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating while averaging 13:28 of ice time in 11 games. Those might sound like paltry numbers, but since coming up from the AHL Adirondack Phantoms, he's moved ahead of the more experienced Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
Syvret to become a mainstay.
Not that Bartulis, who started the season with 2 goals and 4 points in 12 AHL games, is letting his NHL status go to his head. That's why he, his wife and their child still are living in a local hotel.
"The biggest thing for a young guy is you need to improve yourself every game, every practice," Bartulis told NHL.com. "Yes, they told me to find a (permanent) place but you need to prove yourself every day, then you'll feel safe."
So far the Flyers have felt pretty safe whenever Bartulis has stepped on the ice.
Bartulis has impressed with his solid play defensively, and the next step is for him to start chipping in offensively. A 2005 third-round pick, he had just 13 points in 80 games in the AHL last season, but in 2006-07 he had 21 points in 57 games with the Phantoms, and he raised his point totals each of his three seasons in the QMJHL, going from 25 to 35 to 48.
"I think when you get more games then you get more confidence and you can start to do stuff," Bartulis said. "For me first is defense and if I see a 100-percent chance I can go, then I go."
Whether Bartulis continues to see time under new coach Peter Laviolette
remains to be seen, but he certainly left an impression on the former regime.
"Sometimes the simple things he does well are easier here," said John Stevens
, who was replaced by Laviolette Friday night. "Getting the puck, finding the open guy, working for your partner. The (NHL) game's a little more organized. I do think it takes time to adjust to the speed and level of play here, but if anything I've seen his level rise with it with his time here. Looks like he's passing the puck better, passing the puck a little bit harder, a little more sure of where he wants to pass the puck and a little more sure when he closes on a guy. He's a big guy and defends well. We're certainly happy with the progression he's had since he's been here.
"There's been no drop-off. You look for a young guy, especially on the schedule we've had, if you're going to get tired and there's going to be a drop-off you're going to see it now and we haven't seen it."
His teammates haven't seen any, either. Bartulis mostly has been paired with Ryan Parent
, which worked well when they were together in the AHL.
"The biggest thing for a young guy is you need to improve yourself every game, every practice. Yes, they told me to find a (permanent) place but you need to prove yourself every day, then you'll feel safe." -- Oskars Bartulis
"We both play a pretty simple defensive game," Parent told NHL.com. "We've been trying to keep it simple. He had no problem jumping in and adjusting."
Holmgren certainly thought so, which is why the new contract came together so quickly.
"It was surprising, because everything happened so fast," Bartulis said. "After that long trip in California we started talking about that. Both ways it was a great deal. Because it's a great organization, I'm happy to be here. I didn't think about it a lot, I just signed it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.