Mark Fraser was finally released from his pending stint in Maple Leafs purgatory heading to the Edmonton Oilers to play under former AHL Toronto Marlies coach Dallas Eakins and in my opinion this was a phenomenal trade for Fraser the player as well as for the Maple Leafs as an organization. Fraser can move on with his career and finally earn ice time again at the NHL level on a team that has a definite need for a defensive defenseman with his skill set.
The return was about what you would expect when trading away a 7th defenseman, with the Maple Leafs acquiring rugged winger Cameron Abney who was playing for the ECHL Stockton Thunder and will join the Maple Leafs ECHL affiliate Orlando Solar Bears. The Maple Leafs also received the rights to NHL draft pick and current KHL left winger Teemu Hartikainen.
According to Hockey’s Future, the talent analysis on Cameron Abney was “Abney’s primary talent is punching people and taking punches. He is the quintessential tough guy, a role that is being diminished in the modern game, unfortunately for him. Beyond his pugilistic abilities he is a below average to poor hockey player across the board.”
Unfortunately for Abney his future potential is outlined as “Currently playing for the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder, Abney’s lone chance to progress to the AHL and beyond lies in his fists. It is a steep climb at the best of times, but with the enforcer role becoming less relevant it is unlikely he has a lengthy career, and almost a certainty he will not be an NHL player.” according to Hockey’s Future.
In all appearances the trade was for the rights to Finnish prospect Hartikainen with the Maple Leafs taking Abney’s contract off the Oilers hands for roster/contract purposes. The 23 year old, 6’1” 214lbs left winger is an interesting player who was chosen by Edmonton in the 6th round, 193rd overall in the 2008 NHL draft who really appears to have all the makings of a solid top six power forward or at a minimum the 3rd line who has already put up a respectable 27 points in 43 games for Ufa Salavat Yulayev of the KHL.
Hockey’s Future had this to say about his talent levels “Hartikainen is known for his leadership as well as gritty and physical play. He has good size and his willingness to get his hands dirty endears him to teammates, coaches, and fans alike. Often described as a Tomas Holmstrom-type player for the way he battles all over the ice, especially in the corners and in front of the net, he is suited to play any number or roles on a team. His skating has long been described somewhere between ‘lacking’ and ‘atrocious,’ however it has improved immensely in the last couple years.”
His potential was outlined as “Hartikainen has improved by leaps and bounds since being drafted, and there is a real chance his ceiling could be as high as a top six forward when all is said and done. In the near term however, he will likely make his living in a bottom six role, where his endless energy and physical style of play will make him an effective player and a pain to play against. After becoming a restricted free agent in July 2013 and receiving a qualifying offer from Edmonton, Hartikainen made the decision to sign with Ufa of the KHL for the 2013-14 season.” according to Hockey’s Future.
Oh and the kid can dish!
Although Hartikainen is now essentially arms length from the NHL and the Maple Leafs, he is still relatively young and finding his game. He appears to be another interesting prospect that has been added to the relatively well stocked Leafs farm system and I look forward to watching his development. As always, food for thought.