When Teemu Pulkkinen
learned his Jokerit team would be hosting the Anaheim Ducks
on Oct. 4 as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Series, he knew one of his hockey heroes, Teemu Selanne
, would be on hand.
The only question Pulkkinen had would be if Selanne would be wearing his Ducks uniform -- or a suit as the superstar wrestled with thoughts of retirement.
"I also hope he's going to play next season," Pulkkinen told NHL.com in August. "He's in good shape right now. He's 40 years old and playing highest level in NHL, scored 80 points (last season), and is still a really good player."
"I also hope he's going to play next season. He's in good shape right now. He's 40 years old and playing highest level in NHL, scored 80 points (last season), and is still a really good player."
-- Jokerit's Teemu Pulkkinen on Anaheim's Teemu Selanne
Pulkkinen -- and all NHL fans -- got their wish in mid-September, when the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer announced he would return for a 19th NHL season.
Selanne, who had 31 goals and 80 points last season, enters the season with 637 goals, the most in the NHL by a Finnish-born player and No.14 all-time. He's 3 goals behind No. 13 Dave Andreychuk
, and 9 goals from No. 12 Jaromir Jagr
. His 1,340 points are No. 27 on all-time list, but just 54 behind No. 20 Luc Robitaille
and 58 away from Jari Kurri
, the all-time NHL point-producer among Finnish-born players.
Pulkkinen doesn't have that kind of resume yet, but the 2010 fourth-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings
has the look of a scorer at the NHL level.
"He's a very good player inside the blue line," Red Wings Director of European Scouting Hakan Andersson told NHL.com. "He has a very good scoring touch and he has a great shot and good hockey sense. He can make plays, too. He's just a point-producing kind of guy."
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A 5-foot-11, 183-pound right wing, Pulkkinen had 18 goals and 36 assists last season with Jokerit in his first full season in the top Finnish league, SM-liiga. He led the team in assists, and was second in goals and points (54) and earned the league's rookie of the year award.
He also led Finland with 9 points in nine games at the 2011 World Junior Championship.
Like most Finnish youngsters, Pulkkinen grew up idolizing Selanne.
"Of course," Pulkkinen told NHL.com. "He's one of the best Finnish players and good goal scorers. I want to score goals and make plays like Selanne makes."
While facing Selanne will be nice, Pulkkinen said being able to play against NHL-caliber competition is something he's looking forward to.
"It's a good chance to see the players, how they play, everything around the game, in the locker rooms and all that stuff," said Pulkkinen. "It's a positive thing."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK