International Ice Hockey Federation

Pulkkinen powering up

Pulkkinen powering up

Will ex-WJC star be Detroit’s best Finn ever?

Published 24.10.2015 17:33 GMT+3 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Pulkkinen powering up
Detroit's Teemu Pulkkinen, who played at the 2011 and 2012 World Juniors, is excited to see the tournament coming back to Helsinki. Photo: Andy Devlin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Teemu Pulkkinen was born in Vantaa, where Helsinki’s airport is located. That’s fitting, as the Finnish winger’s career is taking off with Detroit this year.

The 23-year-old played two NHL games with the Red Wings in 2013-14, going pointless, and 31 last season (5-3-8). But it looks the former World Junior ace is ready to become a fixture in Motown, and he’s getting opportunities on the second power play unit under new head coach Jeff Blashill. He’s also enjoying the chance to play alongside high-octane linemates like Gustav Nyqvist and Riley Sheahan.

“He’s a good player,” said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. “He’s done everything right so far, and he’s the kind of player who puts the puck away when he gets a chance.”

With the AHL’s Grand Rapid Griffins, Pulkkinen accomplished just about everything he could. He captured a Calder Cup title in 2013, made the league’s all-rookie team in 2014, and earned first-team all-star honours with his AHL-leading 34 goals – which he scored, amazingly, in just 46 games.

“It’s getting better,” Pulkkinen said of his early-season performance with Detroit, following a 4-1 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens on October 17. “I feel good about myself, but it’s early. You just have to get going and work hard.”

Remarkably, he’s just the third Finn ever to suit up for Detroit, preceded by fellow Vantaa product Valtteri Filppula (2005-2013) and Ville Leino (2008-2010). Pulkkinen made his mark early on in the Finnish Liiga when he earned 36 assists in 2010-11 to break Teemu Selanne’s rookie record and was named the rookie of the year.

This Jokerit Helsinki graduate, drafted in the fourth round (111th overall in 2010) by Detroit, also brings an impressive resume from IIHF competition.

Exploiting his cannon-like shot, the thick-bodied sniper, who idolized Alexander Ovechkin as a kid, has racked up more than a point per game at every level he’s played. Pulkkinen’s U18 resume includes two bronze medals from 2009 and 2010 (17-11-28 in 12 games), and at the World Juniors in 2011 and 2012, he was also prolific (9-10-19 in 13 games).

Pulkkinen is thrilled about the World Juniors returning to Helsinki for the first time in 12 years: “It’s going to be nice. Finland won the tournament two years ago, and I think it’s going to be fun for our guys to play at home. I think there will be a lot of fans there, and it’ll be a great tournament.”

He’s also excited about slick Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin, who’s shone in the early going after leading the 2015 U.S. World Junior team in goals and capturing a bronze at the Worlds in May: “He’s been great for us. He’s skating well and shooting the puck. He knows where to be on the ice.”

Detroit, seeking its first Stanley Cup since 2008, has made the playoffs for 24 straight years – Pulkkinen’s entire life – and hopes to continue that streak despite losing two-time Olympic gold medalist coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season. What will it take?

Again, for the high-flying Pulkkinen, it comes down to work ethic.

“Every day, you have to work,” he said. “It’s not just one day, not just one game. Practice, work hard, get better. It’s just early in the season, and we have a lot of games to come. You know, when you do good things, you’re going to win games.”


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