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Pulkkinen Brings Big Upside, Shot to Minnesota

Fletcher discusses acquisition after practice Tuesday

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- The Wild got back to work on Tuesday, holding an up-tempo practice at Xcel Energy Center in preparation for the regular season opener against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

It was the final practice in Minnesota before the team departs on Wednesday morning. 

An hour into practice, the club announced that it had claimed forward Teemu Pulkkinen off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. A native of Vantaa, Finland, Pulkkinen has high offensive upside and is still just 24 years old.

"He's played a top-six role at every level," said Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher. "It remains to be seen whether he can do it at the NHL level, but that's the opportunity we'd like to give him, and we'd certainly like to see if he can do it."

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Pulkkinen has played in 70 career NHL games, scoring 11 goals and nine assists while posting a plus-7 in those games. He had six goals and 12 points in 36 games last season but was hindered by a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for the bulk of the season.

He's always posted big goal-scoring numbers, however, tallying 31 goals in 71 games as a rookie in the American Hockey League in 2013-14 before leading the league with 34 goals in just 46 games with Grand Rapids in 2014-15. His 1.33 points per game that season is third-best by a 22-year-old AHL prospect since 2010.

With a number of veterans on one-way deals and other high-end prospects making a push in training camp, the Red Wings were hoping to get Pulkkinen through waivers so he could start the season in the AHL.

"They have a lot of forwards," Fletcher said. "They've done a great job of drafting and developing players. They're very deep up front and I'm sure it was a numbers issue that he got caught up in there. For us, we like the flexibility we have with our fourth line right now, having guys that are on two-way contracts. I think we're going to have a lot of different looks this year, and we'll see what works."

Wild center Erik Haula played on a line with Pulkkinen for Team Finland at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y. Finland finished sixth in the tournament, but Pulkkinen's nine points were seventh-most in the field.

"He's got a great shot and is really offensive minded, really talented in that way," Haula said. "He can really put the puck in the net. Great guy off the ice too."

Pulkkinen, who will wear jersey No. 17 with the Wild, is expected to debut with Minnesota on Thursday against the Blues.

"I'm excited. It's nice to join Minnesota and am very excited about my opportunity to play," Pulkkinen said. "It's a nice chance for me. I just have to grab it."

Dubnyk 'fine' after practice scare

Perhaps the scariest moment during Wild practice on Tuesday came when goaltender Devan Dubnyk went down in pain on the ice and was attended to for several minutes by trainers.

Dubnyk remained on the ice, however, and was able to stretch out his soreness and said afterward that he is fine.

"I know my heart was a little bit in my throat there," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We put [Alex] Stalock on waivers there and [Dubnyk] goes down, I'm like, 'Oh [gosh],' but he's okay. That's a good thing."

Stalock clears waivers 

Stalock, who was strong in four preseason periods with Minnesota, was placed on waivers Monday and cleared. He will report to Iowa, where he will begin the season.

Bertschy, Eriksson Ek assigned

With the addition of Pulkkinen, the Wild assigned forward Christoph Bertschy to Iowa. Bertschy, who scored one goal during the preseason, is expected to play a big role for the club's top minor-league affiliate.

Minnesota also assigned forward Joel Eriksson Ek to Iowa and placed defenseman Victor Bartley on injured reserve. The Wild will start the 2016-17 regular season with 22 players on its roster.

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