The Penguins made a move to sign one of their more exciting young draft picks, inking Valtteri Puustinen to a two year entry level contract. Puustinen’s NHL rights were set to expire on June 1st, and his new contract will kick in next season.
Avid prospect watchers will know the name, despite being drafted in the seventh and last round in 2019, Puustinen has been one of the most productive scoring forwards in the Finnish hockey league.
Listed at 5’9, 183, there’s not a lot of size to his game, but the young Finn has a knack and ability to score goals, even drawing a comparison to Phil Kessel with the way he operates as a right handed shooting winger.
Finnish junior hockey had a writeup of Puustinen as follows:
The 5’9″ winger has many good elements in his game. He is very crafty offensively and has a lot of puck skill. He has the ability to make unpredictable plays that catch defensemen and goalies off guard. As an example, he scored a highlight-reel, between-the-legs goal which showed off his creativity with the puck. He is smart and does not force the game – he takes what is given to him. He reads the game at a high level. Puustinen is a strong skater with a quick first step and good initial burst. The Pittsburgh Penguins seventh rounder is an intriguing prospect who has a chance to exceed the expectations of his draft position.
From Penguins team press release:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Valtteri Puustinen to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.
The 21-year-old Puustinen was one of Pittsburgh’s seventh-round (203rd overall) draft picks in the 2019 NHL Draft. His contract will begin at the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
“Valtteri is a skilled forward with a great shot who utilizes his speed to play the style of game that we want to play here in Pittsburgh,” said assistant general manager Patrik Allvin. “He’s really matured as a player over the last couple of years playing with HPK and the Finnish national team, which is really exciting for us.”
The 5-foot-9, 183-pound Puustinen spent the 2020-21 season with HPK of Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, recording 41 points (21G-20A) in 51 games. His 21 goals led all HPK skaters and were tied for eighth in the league, while his 41 points were second-most on HPK. He was one of just four skaters in Liiga to record 20 or more goals and assists this season.
Puustinen has spent the last three seasons with HPK, registering 94 points (48G-46A) in 152 games. Puustinen helped HPK win the Liiga Championship in 2019, notching five points (2G-3A) in 16 playoff games, where he was teammates with current Penguins’ prospects Niclas Almari, Emil Larmi and Jesper Lindgren.
A native of Kuopio, Finland, Puustinen won a gold medal with Team Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships, where he suited up for six games and had three assists. He is currently at Team Finland’s 2021 World Championship camp, vying for a spot on the team.
The Penguins do not have many prospects to be excited about, but Puustinen has grown to become one of them. As of now, it’s likely he’s projected to start next season at the AHL level. Depending on how his scoring ability travels to the North American style game, the possibility of being a future NHL contributor is certainly on the table if his game continues to develop.