When you think of a signature shot, you think Brett Hull. Tremendous scoring ability? Jarri Kurri. Combining a wicked shot with an uncanny scoring ability? You have Teemu Pulkkinen.
While comparisons to either of these players are very premature at the NHL level, Pulkkinen has a background and potential to make it a conversation. The 23-year old was taken 111th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft out of Finland’s Jokerit Team Program in the Junior C, B, and A leagues. While progressing through the different age groups, Pulkkinen was a regular point-per-game player, cracking the big club in the Liiga in the year after he was drafted.
This is where Pulkkinen established himself. In 55 games in his rookie year (2010-11) he totaled 18 goals and 54 points, both rookie records. Who held those records? No one special, some Teemu Selanne guy who’s getting his number retired by the Anaheim Ducks this week and holds the NHL rookie record for goals.
“Teemu Selanne played there. Saku Koivu played there. Eska Tikkanen played there. Jarri Kurri played there. Valterri Filppula played there. There’s a lot of great Fins that played in the NHL for decades. He set the record.”
-Detroit Red Wings Director of Player Development Jiri Fischer
After the impressive 2010-11 season, Pulkkinen had two more reasonable years for Jokerit, potting 16 and 14 goals in each before being called up to the AHL for Grand Rapids at the tail end of the regular season in 2012-13. It was a struggle for him to crack the lineup, playing in only two regular season games. In that Calder Cup run he finished with five points in 14 games.
The following summer, he came to camp on a mission. He was “the best player on the ice” in the words of Fischer, and he was given a shot in Grand Rapids for his first full season to make an impact.
He did just that, as in 71 games he scored , the most he’s ever scored at any level. In the process, he broke the Grand Rapids Griffins rookie record held by former Red Wing Jiri Hudler(2005-06) He finished with 59 total points, leading the team in his first full season. Pulkkinen got a taste of the NHL playing in three games, leaving nothing on the scoresheet but left a mark on his
After a playoffs of leading the team in scoring, what could Pulkkinen have for an encore in 2014-15?
The answer? In 33 games Pulkkinen has totaled 20 goals and 39 points, leading the AHL in both categories. He’s definitely proved he can succeed at the professional level, and with winger Johan Franzen put on IR a couple days ago, a door opened wide.
Wings have recalled Teemu Pulkkinen from Grand Rapids and placed Johan Franzen on injured reserve.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 8, 2015
It was the call-up he’d been waiting for, and the big club has given him a simple encouragement.
Wings coach Mike Babcock on Teemu Pulkkinen: “Hopefully he shoots it every time he touches it.” http://t.co/XtV7ij8zJ4
— Chuck Pleiness (@wingsfrontman) January 9, 2015
It’s Pulky’s best tool, and with a team that’s recently struggled to score goals, his offensive abilities could do nothing but boost Detroit’s attack.
Oh, and he’s coming in hot. He’s had goals in eight straight games before his call-up.
Now, where will Teemu play?
Early indications have Pulkkinen skating on a line with Sheahan and Miller.
— Chuck Pleiness (@wingsfrontman) January 9, 2015
Later confirmed, it is indeed that combination.
With little pressure of being on the third line, the Wings likely will want to ease him into the lineup and possibly give him some powerplay time. That bomb from the point could be a valuable weapon if indeed Mike Babcock wants to put the rookie in that situation and if Pulkkinen produces. The fact that he is a right-handed shot, however, might factor a lot into that decision.
Here’s the rundown of Red Wings management on the Finnish sniper:
“He’s got great offensive instincts, can shoot the puck, knows how to score, knows how to get open to score.”
-General Manager Ken Holland
“He gets excited about an empty netter in a 7-2 game the same as he would an overtime winner in a 3-2 game. That’s just the way he is. He loves to score, as a result he’s got a weapon of a shot.”
-Grand Rapids Griffins Head Coach Jeff Blashill
“Surely Finland’s smaller version of Brett Hull.”
-Assistant General Manager Ryan Martin
It’s been a successful development path for the 23-year old Finnish sniper so far, and it will be very interesting to see how Pulkkinen performs at the NHL level seasoned like he is. He may be only 5’11” and weigh 185 pounds, but with the shot he’s got, he has the potential to be something special.
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Pulkkinen Statistics courtesy of EliteProspects, TheAHL.com. Quotes courtesy of Detroit Red Wings Prospects Report(Youtube series). Quote tweets courtesy of Chuck Pleiness (@wingsfrontman) and Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive)
Main Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images