Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
#25: Santeri Airola
#24: Jan Drozg
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Clayton Phillips
#21: Chase Yoder
#20: Kirill Tankov
#19: Raivis Ansons
#18: Lukas Svejkovsky
#17: Judd Caulfield
#16: Johnathan Gruden
#15: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#14: Jordy Bellerive
#13: Cam Lee
#12: Drew O’Connor
#11: Joel Blomqvist
#10: Isaac Belliveau
#9: Calle Clang
#8: Filip Lindberg
#7: Nathan Legare
#6: Tristan Broz
#5: Valtteri Puustinen, Right Wing, Left Wing
Age: 22 (June 4, 1999)
Height/Weight: 5’9, 183 pounds
Acquired Via: 2019 NHL Draft (Seventh Round — Pick #203)
Of all the Penguins’ recent draft picks, the one coming the furthest way (perhaps literally and figuratively) is about to jump into the North American pro game this fall. Valtteri Puustinen remains a name unknown to most hockey fans, but the late pick in 2019 Finnish export has made his mark in the Liiga and is now about to jump over to the Pittsburgh organization.
Puustinen finished eighth in Finland last year with 21 goals, his most prolific of three seasons that saw progression and increases every year. Puustinen capped off his season being named to Finland’s silver medal winning World Championship team (though he only played two games as mostly an extra player).
Here’s some of his highlights and it won’t take long to see why we’re high on him, and why he’s been a name to keep in mind for a little while now. Puustinen is #48, he’s on the smaller side but has a great shot and no fear to get in close to the best areas to score close to the net.
Valtteri Puustinen has been named to Team Finland's roster for the World Championship. The 21-year-old winger had back-to-back 40-point seasons in the Liiga. What a find late in the 2019 draft by Pittsburgh. #IIHFWorlds #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/jWNfAFtn5k— Finnish Jr Hockey (@FINjrhockey) May 16, 2021
“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 Pens’ assistant general manager Patrik Allvin in May when the team signed Puustinen to an NHL contract. “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.”
There’s reason to be excited, Puustinen’s last two seasons in Finland show that his trajectory and career is showing a lot of promise, especially considering a few years ago he was just an over-age seventh round draft pick.
“Puustinen has developed nicely in three seasons with HPK, maturing defensively and remaining a well-rounded offensive threat,” Dobber Prospects’ Kyle Watson wrote in May. “There is a chance that he might take some time to adjust to the North American game, given his small stature, however, it is clear the organization has confidence in his ability.”
Here was Corey Pronman’s recent wrietup about the Pens’ system:
Puustinen is a highly skilled winger with great vision and a better shot. He’s a small guy, though, with good but not great skating for his size who will need to prove he can play at an NHL pace
That proving ground will happen right away to see how Puustinen performs at the AHL level to see what comes next. An unfortunate staple and reality of pro hockey is that players from lower levels, be it European leagues, Canadian juniors or the NCAA sometimes don’t carryover as competition increases.
But, sometimes scorers are able to jump in and be productive in the AHL and speed up their timeline. Jake Guentzel is the best recent Pittsburgh example of this, spending only 44 AHL regular season games in Wilkes-Barre before earning a full-time promotion to the NHL. That’s an extreme example, but Guentzel did start 2016-17 in his age-22 season in Wilkes. Puustinen is 22 years old now.
Puustinen is an exciting prospect for Pittsburgh, because he has high-end skills and attributes that missing almost entirely from their