Teemu Pulkkinen: The Next Surprise Rookie Phenom?

Teemu Pulkkinen knows a thing or two about scoring points.

Actually, scratch that. He knows a lot about scoring points. To say that he only knows “a thing or two” would be a gross understatement.

Pulkkinen, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, has been a prolific scorer at every level that he’s played at so far in his hockey career. This season he’s hoping to continue that track record by being an offensive force at the sport’s highest level: the NHL.

The 23 year-old Finn is shaping up to become another name in a long list of European draft steals by the Red Wings. Despite scoring an eye-popping 20 goals and 41 points in 17 Finnish junior league games during his draft-eligible season, as well as an incredible seven goals and 13 points in just six games at the IIHF World U18 Championship, he dropped all the way down to the 4th round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, where he was snagged by Detroit at 111th overall.

He continued his scoring ways from there with three highly productive seasons in the SM Liiga, including notching 54 points in 55 games in 2010-11. During this time he also appeared twice for his home country at the World Juniors, combining for 19 points in 15 games. He then made the jump to North America full time in 2013 and joined the AHL’s the Grand Rapids Griffins, finishing the 2014 season with 59 points in 71 games.

This past season, however, was definitely his most impressive thus far. Pulkkinen led the entire AHL in goals with 34, but amazingly did so in just 46 games. His 61 points over those games also easily gave him the highest points-per-game percentage among all players. He was rewarded for his gaudy totals with 31 games up in the NHL with Detroit, where he scored a more down-to-earth eight points.

Unable to be contained in the AHL, Pulkkinen now has his sights set on replicating that same level of impact in the NHL on a regular basis.

“I just need a chance,” he recently said to the Detroit Free Press. “I know I can score in this league, and I’m going to show that. If I score goals, I’m going to play. I just have to get a couple of lucky ones in the start.”

“With Teemu, we saw little flashes when he was up,” added Jeff Blashill, who was the head coach of the Griffins last year and will be the coach of the Red Wings this season. “But what he did when in the American Hockey League, in terms of his impact on games on a nightly basis, was beyond, really, anybody that I had seen in the league. He dominated the American League to a level that you hope that, if you can transfer that to the NHL, he could become a real special player.”

While generational phenoms Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will likely receive most of the rookie spotlight this upcoming season, Pulkkinen is well-equipped to make a big splash as well. Much like Mark Stone and John Klingberg did last year, lower-profile prospects can often surprise the league and make some of the biggest rookie impacts.

Pulkkinen will have to work hard to get meaningful ice time, with players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist ahead of him on the roster, but if his career to date is any indication, he’ll likely be too much of a dangerous offensive weapon for Detroit to not utilize night in and night out