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PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #21 Teemu Hartikainen

How do you handle a 24-year old with NHL experience but no contract currently in Russia? You either forget about him or put him near the top of your list. Hartikainen debuts at #21.

Chemmy did it again.

Long-time followers of our Top 25 Under 25 series might remember that two years ago, we kicked off our countdown with a marginal prospect, Andrew Crescenzi. Crescenzi, an undrafted free agent had an adequate season with the Kitchener Rangers, but somehow landed the 25th spot on our countdown. The reason, almost exclusively, was that Chemmy had mistakenly forgot to remove a 10th place vote he had given to Crescenzi, giving him enough points to leapfrog a number of other propsects and claim the opening spot of the countdown.

This time, the player in question had much more of a resume to support such an unusual vote. And he gets a major assist from PPP, who helps land this player in our countdown. Nevertheless, unsigned forward Teemu Hartikainen can thank the two voters for giving him enough points to land him a debut on our list, at spot #21.

Birthyear: 1990-05-03 Birthplace: Kuopio, FIN
Age: 24 Nation: Finland
Position: LW Shoots: L
Height: 186 cm / 6'1" Weight: 99 kg / 218 lbs
Youth Team: KalPa Contract: 14/15
Drafted: 2008 round 6 #163 overall by Edmonton Oilers

Like Brandon Kozun, who we discussed earlier this week, it’s hard to find a truly correct spot on this countdown for Hartikainen. With 52 career games in the NHL under his belt, he’s among other bubble players such as Peter Holland and Carter Ashton in terms of career games played. He’s very clearly a player that can serve a role in the NHL, even if that role isn’t more than a fourth-liner.  Corey Pronman seemed to share a similar outlook.

Hartikainen always interested me when he was in NA. He showed a power game in terms of his protection skills and work ethic and some skill with the puck to make plays. He was never an overwhelming talent guy though, and his skating has always held him back. He could probably be a bottom 6 player in the NHL, but don't expect anything more.

But in addition to the same question that we had to ask with Kozun about his age working against him for our purposes, Hartikainen comes with a second wrinkle; he’s not technically under contract. Back when the Maple Leafs traded Mark Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers, the return was an ECHL prospect (Cameron Abney, who was not given a qualifying offer) and the rights to the former Oilers draft pick. I say rights because after the lockout-shortened 2013 season, where he managed an extended stretch of play in the NHL, Hartikainen left for Ufa of the KHL instead of remaining in Edmonton’s minor league system.

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So how do you try and place Hartikainen in the context of this list? Just on terms of talent, he probably falls in the "AAAA player" category; he’s done well in his time in the AHL, and hasn’t contributed or been given much opportunity in the NHL. He’s almost like a Finnish Carter Ashton that way. But without a contract, and 24 years old, is he truly even a prospect? Is he even a member of the Maple Leafs organization? At least part of the reason he was on the list of eligible players was simply because I couldn’t find anything that said his rights had expired or been renounced by the Leafs.

Name birky BowerPower Burtch Chemmy clrkaitken Nikota PPP SkinnyFish 67 Sound FINAL RANK
Teemu Hartikainen - - - 5 - - 10 - 25 21

In the end, for most of our panel went with the "out of sight, out of mind" conclusion, while PPP and Chemmy both decided contract status be damned, a near –NHL player is a near-NHL player, and we don’t have many lying around.

I don’t think Hartski is an NHL top-sixer, but he’s already an effective NHL bottom-six player. Not sure if he’ll come over, but NHLe of 24 points is better than most on our list. – Chemmy

I’ve ranked Hartikainen lower than his skill level probably merits because he’s unlikely to come back to the NHL this year, and thus holds little value to any NHL team, the Leafs included. – JP Nikota

The points amassed from the few votes Hartikainen received were enough to just sneak by Tony Cameranesi and finish 21st, though well behind our 20th ranked entrant.

So maybe this becomes just another funny footnote in the Top 25 history. But the Leafs eventually got Leo Komarov to come back over…