The short (and entirely selfish on my part) story is this – Teemu Hartikainen will go down in history as one of the most important Oklahoma City Barons players in what is hopefully a long tale of continued prospect hockey in the state. The long story, and much more grandiose, is this – Teemu Hartikainen showed signs of being an important gadget in the machine of the Edmonton Oilers future success story. He came. We saw. He didn’t necessarily conquer. With his entry level contract expiring at the end of last season, some decisions had to be made both by Hartikainen himself, as well as the NHL Oilers. The story unfolded quickly, with Teemu electing to play KHL hockey in Ufa, and the Oilers retaining his rights for “future consideration”.
And so the big Finn moves on, and into a new endeavor.
Early this morning I spoke with Hartikainen, and he candidly shared his thoughts on his departure from the Oilers, his AHL life, and what’s on the horizon in the KHL.
On the decision to sign with Ufa:
“Well, I heard a lot of good things from my friends who are playing in Russia, about Ufa. I felt that I have seen all I needed to see in the AHL, and the Oilers didn’t want to offer me a one-way contract. I wanted to have only one place where I will play in this upcoming season. The Oilers didn’t show much of an interest in me, and Ufa really wanted me. It took me about one week to decide, but at the end, it was pretty easy to make the choice.”
On the relationship with the Oilers:
“I haven’t talked with any of the Oilers people since I signed, but I left them on good terms. I don’t have anything bad to say about the organization. I had fun, and I learned a lot, but it was time to move on.”
On the consideration of returning to NHL as an Oiler:
“I think it’s mostly up to me if I want to come back. I want to play in the NHL, but I need to be a little bit better in some areas of my game. My only goal is to get better at playing hockey in Russia, and then after that, we’ll see where I end up.”
Onto Ufa & what he expects in the KHL:
“Russian league is more about “skill and skating” hockey than NHL. Of course, the ice is bigger which will be good for developing my skating. We don’t dump and chase as much as they do in the NHL which will be good for my confidence too. I can try different things that I couldn’t do with the Oilers. Coach (in Ufa) seems to have a lot of expectations for me, and it will be a good challenge for me to answer them. I have played the last three weeks with Nikita Filatov and (Dmitri) Makarov. So everything looks good this far.”
Indeed, young Teemu, everything looks good. Thanks for the time, godspeed.