By Cassie Gage, OKC Barons on 07/25/2013

Teemu Hartikainen spent most of his three seasons in North America logging plenty of miles between Edmonton and Oklahoma City. Hartikainen, who just completed his three-year entry level contract with the Oilers, has decided to play Russia’s KHL next season but leaves with plenty of important lessons learned.

“I feel like it was a really long season for me. I was living out of a hotel for a while, but you learn after something like that,” Hartikainen said. “It was a very up and down year, but I definitely learned plenty of things this year.”

Hartikainen played in 164 regular season games for the Barons over the last three seasons, scoring 45goals and registering 66 assists. In his 47 games with the Barons last year, he scored 14 goals in 47 games played.   He also holds the distinction of scoring the first two goals in Barons franchise history.

“I’ve played (on every line this past season in the AHL and NHL),” he said. “I’ve learned some hard things. Nothing comes easy.”

Hartikainen made the lineup for 52 NHL games in three seasons, with 23 of those coming during the 2012-13 campaign. Edmonton continues to hold Hartikainen’s NHL rights should he choose to return to North America, but it’s certain the lessons learned at both levels over the last three seasons will be useful in the KHL next season.

And while Hartikainen’s future in North America may be uncertain, there are moments from this past season that will stay with him for a very long time.

“There are plenty of moments that stand out from this past season,” Hartikainen said in the days following the conclusion of the season. “Game seven against Grand Rapids is a game I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was back-and-forth with both teams scoring goals.”

Hartikainen and his teammates endured multiple obstacles during the season. It became more than enduring roster changes and line shuffles. Two massive tornadoes hit the area within 11 days of each other and shook the entire Oklahoma City community. Hartikainen and his teammates waited out the May 31st storm in the parking garage of the Cox Convention Center.

“It’s tough to see people losing their homes,” he said. “We had to cancel a game when we had a tornado. You have to be aware all the time. It’s tough to see. It’s only 5-10 miles away from where we are. It’s sad when people lose their lives. We just tried to play well and win for the entire city.”

Hartikainen had the chance to play with several of his countrymen last season, including forward Antti Tyrvainen and rookie goaltender Niko Hovinen. But, one player Hartikainen believes can step up for the Barons and even the Oilers next season is fellow Finnish forward Toni Rajala.

“He’s fast. He can score. He can pass. He has a good future,” Hartikainen said. “I hope the Oilers will give him a chance. He’s a point-per-game guy. If he ends up in Oklahoma City, that’s good. He’s going to score and make points every night.”

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