Courtesy of Point Park University

Drive to the Net: Speedy Puustinen brings energy


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Valtteri Puustinen. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Penguins selected Finnish forward Valtteri Puustinen with the first of their two seventh-round picks in the 2019 draft.

What kind of a player did the Penguins get in Puustinen? Let's take a look.

Puustinen, 20, is a 5-foot-9, 185-pound right-handed winger. He began last season with the HPK U20 team in Finland's top junior team, scoring three goals and six assists in 11 games, and finished the season with HPK in the top Finnish men's league, Liiga. He scored 10 goals and three assists in 47 regular season games with HPK, and two goals and three assists in 16 playoff games as HPK won the Liiga championship.

With HPK, Puustinen was teammates with Penguins prospects Niclas Almari and Emil Larmi.

Puustinen represented Finland in the World Championship, recording three assists in six games as Finland won gold.

"Puustinen played really well at World Junior this year," Penguins director of amateur scouting Patrik Allvin said. "He's a late bloomer in Finland. He had a strong finish in the playoffs and won the championship in Finland."

Puustinen's greatest asset is his speed and the energy he can bring to the game with that speed. In this clip, Puustinen is able to use some of that speed to score a Game 7 game-winning goal for HPK in the playoffs:

HPK head coach Antti Pennanen has also praised Puustinen's hockey IQ and character. Puustinen is a reliable player defensively, and can make plays with the puck. In this clip, he capitalizes on a Karpat turnover and passes the puck through the Karpat player's legs, skates up ice, and scores:

Puustinen made this play from his stomach in a playoff game with HPK to earn an assist:

Puustinen wasn't always a speedy, energetic player. As a teenager, the native of Kupio, Finland, didn't have the greatest eating habits or work habits. He didn't develop his now-strong habits until joining the HPK system in 2016, which is likely one reason why he was a late bloomer.

"When I came (to HPK), the weight began to drop weekly," he said. "When it fell, my feet began to move better."

His nickname from those days remains, though. "Kuopion Phil Kessel."

"I'm a little similar to the player," he said of his nickname. "I'm a little round and more. Maybe it comes from it."

There's definitely a little resemblance, in this clip with Larmi messing with him in the background:

Puustinen is still under contract with HPK for 2019-20, so he will return to Finland next season. The Penguins retain his exclusive signing rights until June 2021, so he has time to continue to develop in Finland before moving to North America.

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