DETROIT – Last September, when Teemu Pulkkinen stepped on the ice for a preseason game against the Blackhawks at Chicago’s United Center, he didn’t stay there very long.
Six seconds, to be exact.
At 2:16 of the first period, Pulkkinen was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for a hit on Chicago defenseman Michael Kostka.
“The first exhibition game in Chicago, he ended up playing five seconds before he got suspended,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He jumped on the ice and he forechecked so hard that it ended up in a suspension for checking from behind.
“Obviously something we don't recommend doing, but looking at it from another point of view, this is a guy that was always known as a high-end elite producer, a scorer, a passer. Not as a forechecker. He comes to North America and he wants to play in the NHL. He hops on the ice and he wants to finish checks because he knows that's what the coach wants him to do. Very few Europeans can do that.”
Pulkkinen, the Red Wings’ fourth round pick in 2010, was known as a skilled scorer, but quickly proved he could help his teammates find the back of the net, too.
“Everybody talks about his shot,” Fischer said. “Everybody talks about how he can score, about his dangerous shot. Well, you know what? The following year (after being drafted), he goes out and sets the record for most assists.”
During the 2010-11 season, Pulkkinen played in 55 games for Jokerit in Finland, earning 18 goals and 36 assists. The forward’s assist mark broke Teemu Selanne’s single-season record (25) set during the 1990-91 season.
Pulkkinen joined the Grand Rapids Griffins in April 2013 after his third season with Jokerit, earning an assist and a minus-1 with two penalty minutes in two regular-season AHL games.
The forward played in 14 playoff games during the Griffins’ run to the Calder Cup championship, scoring three goals and adding two assists, and a plus-2 with 10 penalty minutes.
“When he got called up to Grand Rapids in the spring last year, he didn't earn the trust of (Griffins coach) Jeff Blashill to put him consistently in the lineup,” Fischer said. “He was basically watching in the press box for almost the entire playoffs.
“I believe he thought it was going to be easier for him to get better. I think he snoozed a little bit. Last year he started to work a little bit harder. He showed up in our development camp and he won the treadmill test. He showed up in great shape.”
Pulkkinen’s hard work paid off in his first full season with the Griffins, as he led the team and finished 16th in the league in scoring with 31 goals and 28 assists through 71 games.
The forward also made his NHL debut during the 2013-14 season, appearing in three games with the Red Wings in which he recorded four shots.
“Every game he plays, he is dangerous,” Fischer said. “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. Now, off the rush, he's not afraid to challenge defensemen one on one. He just wants to play well. He just wants to be better than the other guy.”