When the Detroit Red Wings recalled Teemu Pulkkinen earlier this month, they had one simple message for the Finn: Shoot the puck as much as possible.
Pulkkinen is known for his blazing slap shot, which he used to climb to the top of the AHL scoring leaders. He led the league in scoring when he left Jan. 8, with 20 goals, and he still holds that lead despite not playing in any AHL games since.
In a 5-4 shootout win Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild, Pulkkinen notched his first NHL goal on what was fittingly a slap shot. Stephen Weiss made a great pass to Pulkkinen, who was drifting toward the top of the slot, and he rifled a shot past Devan Dubnyk to put the Red Wings up 1-0 midway through the first period.
Congrats to Teemu Pulkkinen on his first @NHL career goal! pic.twitter.com/txBuzAl8Bj
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 21, 2015
Pulkkinen Similar to Hull
Pulkkinen’s shot has been likened to that of Brett Hull’s, who also shot right-handed and was good at creating space for himself to find scoring opportunities.
This Hull goal from Oct. 9, 2000, looks eerily similar to Pulkkinen’s goal scored Wednesday night.
Pulkkinen has heard the comparison to Hull and considers it a compliment to be likened to Hull, who registered 741 goals in his NHL career, 92 of which came with the Red Wings.
Captain Henrik Zetterberg even sees the similarities. He told MLive.com’s Brendan Savage:
“Obviously, he has a real good shot. But also he’s good at finding the open ice to be able to receive passes. He doesn’t need much. It’s almost like Brett Hull in a way. He doesn’t need a lot of room to get a shot off.”
Pulkkinen has primarily been used on the third line with Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss. However, coach Mike Babcock changed the lines for the game against Minnesota and put Pulkkinen on the fourth line with Joakim Andersson and Weiss.
He also was moved to the first power-play unit for Wednesday’s game after seeing mostly second power-play unit time.
Pulkkinen’s time on ice has been sporadic in his first six games this season. As you can see from the chart, he had his most ice time in the loss to Washington on Jan. 10. However, he had just 7:25 of ice time against the Wild.
|1/10||at WSH||L 3-1||0||0||0||3||16:21|
|1/13||at BUF||W 3-1||0||0||0||2||11:20|
|1/15||at STL||W 3-2 (OT)||0||0||0||2||11:02|
|1/17||vs. NSH||W 5-2||0||0||0||1||9:10|
|1/18||vs. BUF||W 6-4||0||0||0||0||12:30|
|1/20||vs. MIN||W 5-4 (SO)||1||0||1||2||7:25|
Babcock makes his players, especially younger players, earn ice time and Pulkkinen will be no different. He may have dominated in the AHL, but the NHL is a different animal. Once Pulkkinen starts contributing on a consistent level, I expect his time on ice also will be more consistent.
It’s too early to tell if Pulkkinen is going to be the next Brett Hull. Pulkkinen hasn’t even played 10 NHL games, but the similarities sure are there.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.