SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers Hartikainen in the mix

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:14 AM ET

EDMONTON - When the coach plays you on a line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, like Tom Renney did with Teemu Hartikainen on Saturday, it's a pretty good indication that you're in the plans.

They don't give a plum pre-season spot like that to just anybody.

It's no secret that Hartikainen is in the plans and he will be an NHLer some day. But whether the plan for him is immediate or long term, whether that day is Oct. 9 or sometime later in the season, has yet to be determined.

The 21-year-old caught everyone's attention late last year when he notched five points in 12 games after being called up from Oklahoma. A six-foot-one, 211-pound winger with speed, decent skill and typical Finnish moxie was just what Edmonton needed.

Still is.

"Good things happened last year," said Hartikainen, who turned in a solid game against the Flames, winning more puck battles than he lost. "I skated hard, hit guys and drove to the net. I got some goals and assists and saw that I can play in this league.

"If you know you can play here, you don't have to worry about that 'Am I good enough to play here?' stuff. I know that I can battle with the guys, I'm strong enough to drive to the net, my shot is good enough."

But is there room? With Anton Lander, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a couple of dark horses and 13 returning veterans in the mix, the job that seemed automatic last March isn't necessarily so right now.

"There are a lot of players, a lot of one-way contracts," said Hartikainen, who put up 42 points in 66 Oklahoma games last year.

"There are a lot of really skilled young guys who can pass, shoot and score. I'm just trying to play a gritty game, but I also want to be a skill guy who can play on all four lines, whatever they want.

"I'm going to play hard for the coaches. If it has to happen (starting the season in the AHL) because they don't have room, then when the first injury comes I want to be the first guy to come here."

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