|Red Wings rookie Teemu Pulkkinen made an immediate impact in his NHL debut with this hip check on Edmonton's David Perron. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
DETROIT – The Red Wings got a look at many young minor-league prospects during the 2013-14 season, including Teemu Pulkkinen. The forward made his NHL debut on March 14 in Detroit’s 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Calling up Pulkkinen from Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League was necessary after Tomas Jurco was sidelined for seven games with a rib injury.
The 22-year-old Pulkkinen became the fifth Wings’ rookie to make his league debut last year, and ninth in the last two seasons.
Detroit’s fourth-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft, Pulkkinen was the Griffins’ leading scorer and ranked second among AHL rookies with 51 points in 60 games at the time of his call-up. The Finnish winger also led AHL rookies in goals (26), shots (175) and plus/minus rating (20) before arriving in Detroit. As a rookie in the Finnish Elite League three years ago, he set the record for assists by a rookie (36 with Jokerit in 2010-11).
In September, Pulkkinen was assessed a major penalty for boarding Chicago defenseman Michael Kostka in a preseason game. Pulkkinen also served a four-game suspension for the illegal hit, which occurred on his first-ever NHL shift.
“Since then, as guys got called up from Grand Rapids to Detroit he has become the go-to guy,” said Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings’ director of player development. “Every game he plays, he is dangerous. Every team Grand Rapids plays against, they talk about him in their pre-game meetings. He's got a very dangerous shot; he's got a lot of confidence to shoot the puck.”
Pulkkinen was originally called up in February to give the Red Wings enough bodies to hold practices during the Olympic break while a third of the team was still in Sochi, Russia.
“I like to shoot the puck, I like offensive game, try to make plays and shoot the puck,” Pulkkinen said. “That’s how I try to help the team.”
The book on the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Pulkkinen was that he loves to shoot the puck, which is something many young players struggle with when they first arrive in the league. But not Pulkkinen, who relies on his heavy shot with a quick release.
Center Cory Emmerton, who skated on the same forward line with Pulkkinen in Grand Rapids, was impressed with Pulkkinen’s maturity and skill.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him really take a wrist shot. It’s always some sort of snap shot or slap shot,” Emmerton said. “But he gets it off really quick too, so it’s not like he’s taking a long time to wind up. That’s just one of those weapons that he has. It’s a gift, it’s a skill and he uses it really well.”
While Finland has put a number of quality scorers through to the NHL, Pulkkinen – who grew up in the same small town as former Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula – has admired just one.
“Not too many guys, of course we have one great goal scorer, Teemu Selanne, he’s the one guy,” Pulkkinen said. “Of course I like all those guys that have good shots and are good goal scorers. That’s the way I want to play. Those are the guys I watch.”
The 22-year-old Pulkkinen generates a lot of power in his right-handed shot. And because the Red Wings only have left-handed defensemen, Pulkkinen can be used on the off-point on the power play.
Pulkkinen, who leads the Griffins with seven power-play goals, likes to set-up for the one-timer with the man-advantage.
“That’s my game,” said Pulkkinen, of taking one-timers. “I like to play there. I played in Finland too, sometimes, especially when it was 5-on-3. That’s a good place for me. You get a lot of chances to shoot so that’s real nice.”
Pulkkinen led the Griffins with 31 goals and 28 assists through 71 regular-season games during the 2013-14 season.