The NHL held its annual draft combine in Toronto this past weekend, and one of my favourite reporters, Patrick King, was there.
And while there, Mr. King did DubNation a great favour by tracking down Teemu Pulkkinen, an 18-year-old forward from Finland who’s expected to be selected at the NHL’s entry draft June 25 to 26 in Los Angeles. Pulkkinen played for his country at the 2009 world under-18 championships in the U.S., where he recorded 13 points in six games, good for third place in tournament scoring.
His WHL rights are owned by the Kelowna Rockets, who selected the 5-foot-10, 175-pound left winger 50th overall in the CHL’s 2009 import draft. The Rockets say they don’t know whether he’ll commit to playing in the WHL this season, and it seems Pulkkinen doesn’t know either. But what he does know is this: He likes to score.
“I always have said that my favourite players have been good goal scorers, like Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steven Stamkos, all the right-handed guys who can shoot the puck and are very good goal scorers,” Pulkkinen told King. “I always love to score goals and I try to shoot the puck as many times as possible in a game. I like to score.”
Now, what about this Kelowna thing?
“It’s like a 50-50 thing what I’m doing,” said Pulkkinen. “I have a one-year contract with Jokerit, but I have a window to come over to North America to play, in Kelowna, so it’s like 50-50. We’ll see what happens.”
King then asked if he was contractually bound to play with Jokerit this season.
“No, no. I’m free if I play in Kelowna,” said Pulkkinen. “After that, I’m free to do what I want.”
King then asked the most important question: Do you want to play in the WHL?
“The best thing for me . . . I have had problems with injuries, so the good thing for me (in the WHL) is that I would get lots of games, so that’s a positive thing in Kelowna, to play a lot,” said Pulkkinen, who would likely play for a men’s team if he were to stay in Finland this coming season. “They have about 70 games in the regular season, so that’s a positive thing.
“But I have to think which one is better: Canada or Finland for myself.”
Pulkkinen went on to say he knows 19-year-old right winger Toni Rajala, a fellow Finn who played last season with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and also with Finland’s national junior team. Rajala had one goal and two assists for three points in six games for Finland at the WJHC.
“I had a little talk with him, but not too much,” said Pulkkinen. “Right now, he’s in Finland, so after this trip, when I’m back home, I’ll talk to him.”
King also asked Pulkkinen that, if he gets drafted, will his decision to play in either North America or Europe be made for him?
“That’s a big thing if the team wants me,” said Pulkkinen, adding he’s heard Kelowna is a great city and is a great place to play. “I have to really, really think which (route) is better for my career.
“I haven’t talked to Kelowna yet, but, after this trip, I will talk to them.”
The draft combine featured 100 players; 70 from North America and 30 from Europe. Pulkkinen, who started last season with Jokerit and wound up getting sent down to the junior ranks, was ranked 17th in NHL Central Scouting’s list of European skaters eligible to be drafted.
For more on the NHL scouting combine, click here.