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Principe's Blog: Plays with Hart-ikainen

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Teemu Hartikainen celebrates his first career NHL goal in the second period vs. Calgary on Mar. 26, 2011 (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC).

There's no way to get around what happened Saturday night at Rexall Place. A heartbreaker for Edmonton in a loss to Calgary that could have in essence knocked the Flames from the playoff chase. That's what it will be remembered for short term but in the long term that 5-4 shootout defeat will evetually fade from memory.

Yet through all the pain and suffering of what happened Saturday there was one thing or one player that gave the team something to smile about and that's Teemu Hartikainen.

On Saturday Hartikainen scored the Oilers' second goal of the night and the first of his career. That alone is a never to be forgotten moment but it was even more impressive because Hartikainen did so using his strength, size and skill. He is only five games into his NHL career but already the kid has shown he's willing to challenge and compete. That he's not afraid or intimidated even though you kind of figure the 20-year-old should be as the infancy of his NHL life has begun. We are not talking about the highly acclaimed Halls, Eberles or Paajarvis of the world; instead this is a sixth round pick.

It was at the 2008 draft 141 picks after the Oilers had chosen Jordan Eberle 22nd overall that Edmonton picked Teemu Hartikainen with the 163rd overall selection. At 18 Hartikainen was playing for the Kalpa Juniors. Here's a little perspective on what the life expectancy has been for sixth round picks in Edmonton's history.

Here are some names you have forgotten if you ever even knew them. Dragan Umicevic, Max Gordichuk, Shaun Norrie, Michael Svensk, William Quist, Bryan Randall, Keijo Sailynoja, Radek Toupal, Jim Ennis are just to name a few or quite a few previous Oiler sixth round picks.

This is not a statement on Edmonton's scouting staffs but instead on the degree of difficulty once you reach that point of the draft. It's a longshot that any of these kids will ever see the light of day in an NHL rink.

The best all time Oiler pick in the sixth round was current assistant coach Steve Smith in 1981. That same year the Oilers also drafted Marc Habscheid. Others chosen in that round that you may remember were former Tampa Bay owner Len Barrie, Anatoli Semenov, Terry Marchant (if only because he was Todd Marchant's brother) and Peter Sarno. That's what makes Hartikainen's ascent to the NHL even more impressive. His 42 points in the AHL and a slew of injuries have given him a chance he wasn't expected to have until next year.

For all the young, talented forwards Edmonton has they are in short supply, like most NHL teams, of kids built to play the power forward position. Hartikainen at 6-1-215 lbs. has it and it appears he doesn't mind using it. For all the despair that comes with an injury plagued bottom of the standings season comes revelations like Hartikainen. A kid with some raw tools that are in the process of being refined. He is Finnish but when it comes to the NHL Teemu looks like he's is just getting started.

Author: Gene Principe
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