Future Watch: Teemu Hartikainen
After a stint in the NHL, Hartikainen is back in OKC, working on 'the little things'
However, tough competition in camp resulted in him being sent back to the AHL and Oklahoma City to start the year.
"I was really disappointed. I worked hard all summer," Hartikainen said after we spoke to him following a practice in OKC on Thursday.
The 6'1" 215-pound power forward went on to say that it took him a good week to get over the demotion to the point where he had frequent discussions with his father and brother to try and get him out of the funk. However, after going pointless in his first two games, Hartikainen then rattled off four goals and six points in six outings and has emerged as one of the Barons' offensive leaders.
"Now I know what I have to do. That's an extra motivation to hone my skills and practice hard and play hard," stated Hartikainen, who has five goals and eight points through 11 games so far this year.
The fundamentals of Hartikainen's game have been good and translate very well at the NHL level. The Oilers told him it was the little things he needed to improve on in order to earn a full-time spot in the top league.
"Just play a simple game. Tip the puck and hone my skills a little more so when I go back there I'm not coming back (down here) anymore," he said. "They told me when they call me up they want me to be a top-six forward, score the goals here, get some points and be one of the leaders."
Oklahoma City Barons head coach Todd Nelson agreed with that assessment.
"It's coming alright. Play (well) away from the puck, stopping and starting, managing the puck. Those are the biggest things for Harti that he has to work on."
The bench boss also acknowledged that he noticed the initial letdown after Hartikainen was dispatched to the American Hockey League.
"When he got sent down he was disappointed. It took him a few days to get over it but he's better now. He's here, he's working hard, he's having fun and he's only going to get better and better."
Nelson did sit Hartikainen out of a game last weekend in Abbotsford after noticing the winger's play had slipped somewhat but Hartikainen rebounded with a key goal in Tuesday's game at home against Toronto.
GOOD FRIENDS AND TEAMMATES
The recent arrival of Linus Omark to OKC has been a welcome sight for Hartikainen.
"We lived together last year and we learned a lot together. We learned everything over here to support ourselves. He's one of my best friends over here," he said.
Hartikainen added that, overall, the entire team is very close and that has helped a lot when it comes to playing in the AHL.
"A lot of guys who played here last year (are back). We hang around a lot. When we're on the road, we watch movies and that sort of thing. We have a good time."
|Teemu Hartikainen (Photo by Steven Christy Photography).|
"It's a huge thing. Everyone learns how to win the games. We have three or four lines that can score all the time," Hartikainen said. "We have a lot of guys with a bunch of points and goals."
It's that depth that caused Hartikainen to miss a game last week, but he noted that being pushed from below is not a bad thing at all.
"It's a young team. You have to work hard all the time to get your minutes. There's a battle for spots all the time."
Hartikainen believes that continuing to battle for spots and helping with team success will make him that much better when he does get back to the NHL level.
"I feel really confident because I know I can score there. It's the samll things I have to improve on. I'm knocking on the door and waiting for my chance to get called up," he said.
"I want to play there. I think about that all the time but I'm confident the call is coming and I'm just waiting."
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