Today’s signing of Finnish forward Juuso Puustinen
is an interesting depth move by the Preds. Finland is a scouting region where the Preds have had increasing success unearthing quality talent. Pekka Rinne
gives the Preds major name recognition in the country, but defenseman Teemu Laakso
(re-signed by the Preds yesterday) is on the verge of becoming an NHL regular, 2008 draftee Jani Lajunen
is expected to make his North American debut with the organization in 2011-12, 2010 draftee Joonas Rask
may make the jump this season or next season, and now Puustinen. If nothing else, the group of Finns should have a comfort level within the locker room -- the whole common language and common cultural bond.
Signed to a two-way deal, on first glance, Puustinen appears ticketed for veteran scoring line slot with the Milwaukee Admirals. And with forward Linus Klasen
apparently heading back to Sweden there’s a need for another proven scoring presence for the AHL squad. But on closer inspection, his resume has some similarities to past Preds “under the radar off-season finds” like Joel Ward (in 2008) and Sergei Kostitsyn
At 23-years old, he’s already shown the abilities to score in Finnish Elite League – twice breaking the 10-goal mark in Finland, including a career-high 26 goals this year. The 26 goals were fourth most in the SM Liiga. Plus, Puustinen has successful experience with the North American style of play. After being selected by the Calgary Flames in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Puustinen came over and spent two seasons in the Western Hockey League, averaging a point a game with 59 goals and 124 points in two seasons with Kamloops.
His success last year, combined with his experience with the North American game and his NHL-ready size make Puustinen an interesting "watch" for fans looking for potential dark-horse during Training Camp.