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Prospects Unlimited: Trip to lower league helps Hurricanes prospect Puistola find his touch

He had to take a step back to move forward, but Hurricanes prospect Patrik Puistola is reaping the rewards from honing his game at a lower level.
Arno Hämäläinen/Tappara

Arno Hämäläinen/Tappara

If you paid attention to international hockey last season, you couldn’t miss left winger Patrik Puistola. Luckily for the Hurricanes, they were all over the kid. “His game really evolved and improved from the Hlinka to the Mestis,” said Carolina director of player personnel Darren Yorke. “Then it culminated at the world under-18s.”


Puistola, part of a wave of young Finns drafted by Carolina, had six points in four games at the Hlinka-Gretzky summer tournament, then five goals in five games at the world under-18s in the spring. In the middle, Puistola had a bit of a tumultuous run back home. He played games against men in the top-level Liiga with Tappara but saw limited action. “I played like five minutes a game, so it wasn’t that good for me,” he said. “But I also played in LeKi against men, and that was good for me. I played like 20 minutes a game.”

A trip to the second-tier Mestis with LeKi saw him average more than a point per game in 22 contests. “You saw the 1-on-1 ability to beat guys,” Yorke said. “And his touch around the net was his best asset.”

This year has been a repeat, with Puistola starting off the season in Tappara, notching just one point in 11 games, before getting loaned to another Mestis team, Koovee. The key right now is making sure he gets reps, and if it’s not in the Liiga just yet, that’s fine with the Hurricanes. “He wasn’t getting enough puck touches,” Yorke said. “For a skill player, he needs those.”

Puistola needs to get stronger, which will help him become a more explosive skater. On top of his skill, he has shown a grinding side, and it’ll be interesting to see his role on Finland’s world junior team this winter. At the WJC, he could be joined by fellow Finns and Carolina picks Tuukka Tieksola, Lenni Killinen and Anttoni Honka. For an NHL squad that already boasts Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen (both of whom texted Puistola when he was drafted 73rd overall this summer) things are looking blue – Suomi blue, that is. – Ryan Kennedy



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