09-10 team: Jokerit(Finland)
09-10 stats: 12 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points
Nobody seems to question Teemu Pulkkinen's abilities once he steps on the ice. On pure talent alone, he may be one of the top ten, maybe even five, players in the draft. But it is Pulkkinen's ability to stay on the ice that will be of great concern for NHL teams. Pulkkinen played very little this year, thanks to a lingering knee injury, that has affected him off and on for two years now, a broken wrist, and a separated shoulder. All three injuries have required surgery, causing questions about how Pulkkinen will handle the physical North American game.
Pulkkinen was a standout performer at this year's U18 tournament, which brought him back into the first round discussion, but shortly after the tournament, he underwent shoulder surgery, and didn't perform at the NHL Combine, since he didn't have all of his medical paperwork in order, though he was able to interview with most teams.
Pulkkinen is a pure sniper with perhaps one of the best shots in the draft. He's also a very smooth stickhandler with the puck. He's not the fastest skater, but he plays on the wing, where his skating is less of an issue, and he's a solidly built player. One area where Pulkkinen will have to improve before playing in the NHL is improving his defensive game.
It's still unclear where Pulkkinen will play next season. He is under contract with Jokerit's pro team for one more year, but there is a brief window this summer where he could transfer to the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.
Links of Interest:
Pulkkinen Has Top 20 Potential-The Hockey News-April 2010
Pulkkinen Finally Showed True Form at End of Season-NHL.com-June 2010
April 8, 2009: "This kid looks like he's going to be a superstar. He's absolutely electric 1-on-1 against a defender, and made a lot of highly ranked defenseman look absolutely silly. He's a natural goalscorer that could be among the tournament leaders in goals. I've heard a lot of good things about Taylor Hall, and I've been a huge Cam Fowler fan for years now, but Pulkkinen might be good enough to get consideration as the top overall pick in next year's draft."
April 21, 2010: "Teemu Pulkkinen is a kid that I thought was very under-rated in the draft, and being one of this tournament's leading scorers probably brings him back into the first round conversation again, though the way the tournament ended for him today probably doesn't help."
It's tough to tell where Pulkkinen will go in the draft, because the final decision on whether to gamble on him will likely be made by medical professionals, rather than hockey people. Pulkkinen made the paperwork from all of his surgeries available to any NHL team that was interested, and it will be up to those teams to decide if he is a player that merely ran into some bad luck, or if these physical issues will be a perpetual problem.
Personally, I can't see a player of that talent slipping out of the first round, but he may slip into the middle of the second round or later if teams are nervous about his injury history.