Pulkkinen brings hard shot to Detroit
Finnish forward will make NHL debut on Friday; thinks shoot-the-puck first
|With no available locker room stalls, rookie Teemu Pulkkinen took a spot on a folder chair near the entrance to the Red Wings' room Thursday morning. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t need a scouting report to know what type of talent Teemu Pulkkinen possesses.
“He looks like he shoots the puck so shoot the puck,” said Babcock, when he was asked about the Finnish rookie, who is expected to make his NHL debut Friday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Babcock continued: “Do whatever you do, make sure you play well defensively and whatever you do that got you called up make sure you do.”
The book on the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Pulkkinen is 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.
Pulkkinen’s 26 goals lead Grand Rapids, and he ranks second among American Hockey League rookies with 51 points in 60 games this season. Red Wings center Cory Emmerton, who skated on the same forward line with the Griffins, has been 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. He practiced on the left point with the second power-play, opposite defenseman Danny DeKeyser. Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and David Legwand were up front on the second unit.
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.”
Injuries have had a profound impact on the Red Wings this season, and while it’s conceivable that the Wings will have a scoring leader with less than 50 points for the second consecutive season, Pulkkinen could restore some scoring, which vanished after last Friday’s 7-4 win over New Jersey.
“Teemu is an interesting player, he’s obviously not very big but he skates hard, he plays hard and loves to shoot the puck,” Emmerton said. “He’s got an unbelievable shot, possibly one of the best I’ve ever played with or seen. I don’t know if he’s scored an ugly goal all year; they’ve all been pretty much slap shots, blowing it by the goalie.
“Obviously, the NHL is a different level but we’ll see how that plays out. But I think he’s got a real bright future and he wants to play and play hard, so he’s got that going for him.”