It isn't every day you find a special player who can do what Teemu Pulkkinen has done at the AHL. Detroit drafted the Finnish goal-scoring dynamo in 2010, at 111th overall. For what he is turned into, it shows that they hit the jackpot on this. I mean, in 2010-2011, Pulkkinen broke the record previously held by Teemu Selanne for most assists by a rookie while he was with Jokerit (SM-liiga). I'd say that's pretty special for a kid who was drafted in the fourth round, but I digress.
The Red Wings are quickly approaching a crossroads with Teemu Pulkkinen, goal-scorer extraordinaire. After having an impressive rookie AHL campaign with 31 goals and 28 assists, mind you that is the most productive rookie the Red Wings have had at the AHL level EVER, Teemu is now on track to crush his rookie scoring statistics in the AHL this season. He's currently checking in at 19 goals, and 19 assists through 32 games, which is good for 1.19 points per game. The stats don't lie, Teemu Pulkkinen has done just about all he can do at the AHL level. Detroit needs to figure out what this kid's future is. I have a few thoughts on the matter.
Detroit is a team who, at their best, can win games consistently. However, very seldom are they ever playing their best hockey. It sounds negative, but it's true. There are a couple of cardinal pieces missing on this squad. One of which is goal-scoring, and the other, of course, is defense. No doubt in my mind that Detroit needs a guy who can shoot the puck like Teemu. But at what cost? Detroit is practically jammed as far as forwards go.. Sure you could put a guy like Andersson on waivers, but what good would that be if Pulkkinen ends up taking his role and being scratched? It does no good, that's what. I would have no quarrels with putting Pulkkinen on the 4th line, and giving him sheltered offensive minutes, including some prime looks on the power-play. He doesn't need to be a prolific 200 foot player right now, what he needs to do is make sure the puck hits the twine. So what do you do? I entertained the thought of even swapping a guy like Tomas Jurco (who is waiver exempt) just to give Teemu Pulkkinen a thorough look at the NHL level. It sounds crazy, I know.. But what other options are there? I am not cool with having Pulkkinen or Jurco sit at this point.
The next thought is, if you're not going to prioritize some prime chances for this kid to get his shot, why not address another issue? Defense. The team isn't exactly sound on the blue line, and we all know it. So if you're not going to give him the shot that he has so god damn rightfully earned, what is keeping you from dealing him to acquire a missing piece to your puzzle? I know, the thought of this is going to make a lot of people upset, but really.. You have to think realistic in these situations. Pulkkinen is on the last year of his ELC, and is out of options next season. He's either in the NHL, or he's going on waivers to get back to the AHL. Do you really believe that Teemu Pulkkinen, a guy with 50 goals in the past 103 games in the AHL isn't going to get claimed? Trust me when I say this, I don't want him traded. I think he is a very special player who can absolutely contribute to this team. However, when does he get his shot? Do we have to wait for another injury? I just don't feel content with that. He's annihilating AHL competition, and has a very promising upside at the NHL level judging by what we have seen in the AHL, and the Finnish leagues.
So there's your crossroad, Wings faithful. What do you do? Do we swap Jurco for Pulkkinen and give the kid a shot, or do we go fishing for a blue line asset who can help this team. Either way you cut this pie, having him sit at the AHL level isn't going to do much better for him, or the team.