Teemu Pulkkinen is overrated. I’m going to tell you why. Prospects only have value because they are expected to develop and become NHL caliber players. A prospect has value for two reasons, they have a high ceiling or a high floor. A high ceiling means this player has a ton of potential and a high floor means that barring any accidents(Igor Grigorenko) this player will be no worse than this.The bigger gap between these two, the bigger the risk. A lot of the boom or bust prospects suffer from this. A player’s floor and ceiling can be determined from their different skills and how developed they are. The more NHL skills they have, the higher their ceiling, the more developed they are, the higher their respective floor.
Teemu Pulkkinen is a guy who has one NHL skill that is very developed when isolated. Everyone knows Teemu Pulkkinen as a guy with a great shot. That’s it. No one ever talks about anything else because that’s all there is to talk about with Pulkkinen. I don’t care that Pulkkinen scored 31 goals in his rookie year. Stats don’t tell the whole story with Pulkkinen. As I talked about earlier, prospects only have value because of the expectation that their success will continue at higher levels and that they will develop into some kind of NHL talent. Usually, we assume that a player who scores goals in the AHL will translate those goals into the NHL because although they will be playing against better competition, they will also continue to get better and to grow. They will raise their floor and move closer to their ceiling.
Pulkkinen scored 31 goals this year. Out of that, I have been able to find film on 21 of those goals. There are three variations in the 21 goals I have seen, he scores via a rebound in the front of the net, he fires a one timer from near or above the top of the circles, or he carries the puck in the offensive and shoots from the top of the circles. So I decided to do some statistical analysis of these three different goals, and again this is only on 21 of his 31 goals, he scored 9 goals by rushing the puck through the neutral zone into the offensive zone and then taking a shot from the top of the circles. All but one of those goals was a slap shot. This would generally be the part of the article where I would show Pulkkinen in this stereotypical play and break it down picture by picture, however, I don’t see any reason to do this here since Pulkkinen’s plays are not complex and don’t require me to break them down, he simply takes the puck into the offensive zone and shoots.
The play is so simple and as a result, it is easily stopped. If Pulkkinen is entering the zone on me, I simply step up on him taking away his space leading with an aggressive stick. I position my body to the inside forcing Teemu to either stop and wait for his linemates(stopping the momentum of the play) or to go to the outside. When he goes to the outside, I use my body to check him and grab the puck. Pulkkinen doesn’t have puck skills that make me respect his space. He is a player who needs space and time to be effective. In the above situation, I take away both his space and his time. He would most likely dump the puck deep and try to beat me to the puck in the back, but even if he beats me to the puck(a low percentage play anyway) I have him behind the net where his shot isn’t useful. The point I’m trying to make here about Pulkkinen is that his ceiling isn’t as high as people think it is.
The one thing that gets overlooked on Pulkkinen is the refinements that need to be made on his shot. His wind up is too long and he needs to improve his shot selection. An NHL goalie can stop almost any shot if they are given time to square up to it. The one timer is an effective play because it gives the shooter a better angle and more net to shoot at, while pressuring the goalie to get the right angle on the fly and react to the puck. For Pulkkinen to be an effective NHLer he has to get his shots off quicker and from better spots. Having a great shot is obviously a plus, but if you develop nothing else than you won’t get the chance to shoot much.
With that being said, Pulkkinen’s ceiling is as a borderline top 6 forward who might score about 15-20 goals, most of them coming from the power play. Meanwhile, his floor is as a fringe NHLer who shoots really well but can’t do much else playing most of his minutes as the point man on a power play shooting a lot. As I look through their prospects, he is the one I am looking at to be the biggest flop of the bunch. The talent and progression just isn’t there.
For anyone interested, you can keep up with me on twitter @ProspectGuy. If you have any questions regarding any articles I have written or any hockey related questions at all, feel free to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer every question that I get.