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Future Watch: Teemu Hartikainen

by Kristi Hennessy / Edmonton Oilers
Teemu Hartikainen is a well known hockey player in his home town of Kuopio, Finland. He has been playing for his hometown junior team KalPa, since the 2006-07 season.

After being drafted in the sixth round (163rd overall) by the Edmonton Oilers, Hartikainen had a superb  season en route to setting a record for goals in the Finnish Elite League by an 18-year-old with 17. He also won the league's Rookie-of-the-Year award scoring 17 goals in 51 games at the young age of 18.

The 6’1 200-pound Finn opened the eyes of many at the U20 World Junior tournament where he led the Finnish team in points with nine in six games and ended up tied for eighth in points.

"It was a very good season," said Hartikainen. "We had a great playoffs and the coach liked me."

Hartikainen is known for his leadership as well as gritty and physical play.  Hartikainen has good size loves to go hard to the net and score.  He has been compared to a ‘Tomas Holmstrom’-type player” for the way he battles all over the ice, especially in the corners and in front of the net.

"He comes to play. He competes. He's got pretty good hands but his skating has to improve a bit. He's like a poor man's Thomas Holstrom in that he competes all over the ice." said OIlers Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast.

“I am training on that a lot. Steve Serdachny gave me a lot of good skating drills over the summer.” said Teemu Hartikainen. “ I now have a great opportunity to work on my skating.”


Q: Who is your favorite Finnish player?
A: Jari Kurri and Kimmo Timonen

Q: Do you ever get to watch any NHL hockey in Finland?
A: “I don’t get to see live NHL games, only on TV. I think we will get to watch a few games when we go to Calgary before WJC coming up.”

Q: Do you have a special reason that you wear number 35?
A: “My birthday is the 3rd of May. Also, last year when I went to a sm-liiga team, I couldn’t take a good number because I was only a little rookie. I’ll keep my number as long as I can because last year went so well and I don’t want change it now. Many people ask me why I play with a goalkeeper number, but it's only funny to me!”

Q: Do you have any personal rituals on game day or any dressing room routines?
A: “I have to have three white hockey tape lines on my stick, I wear the same socks and underwear for every game, I cannot shoot a slap shot during warm up before a game, and before home games I eat homemade pizza.”
Hartikainen is preparing for another World Junior appearance alongside with good friend and fellow Oilers prospect Toni Rajala.  Rajala is currently playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League after leaving his hometown Finland. When asked if Hartikainen had ever considered playing in the CHL, here’s what he had to say:

“A couple years ago my agent said that I can go if I wanted to, but I think it was better to play in Finland.” said Hartikainen. “Here in Finland, everything is perfect.  KalPa wants teach me to be a good player.”

“I talk to Rajala a little bit in Brandon and can’t wait to meet again at Christmas time in Canada.” he said. “I can’t wait for WJC, I think we have a really good team this year. I think Sweden and Canada will be tough teams to beat. They get huge names there.”

Hartikainen led his country in scoring with nine points in six games in the tournament last year. His strong showing almost earned him an appearance in the top men's world tourney.

"He played very well at the World Junior Championships. “said OIlers Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast. He's a big kid, 6'2" 205 pounds. He's got good hands, goes to the net and is very strong."

"Talking to Jari Kurri, he's one of the players they had on their radar to bring to the World Championships," Prendergast continued. "If some NHL players declined, he was going to get that opportunity."

Hartikainen will play this season in the Finnish league with another opportunity to learn alongside NHL veteran Sami Kapanen. His goal is to come over to North American for next season.

“It's my dream to play there," he said. “I must improve my skating and my hands. I need a lot of speed if I want play in the NHL in the future.”
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