The Milwaukee Admirals are off to a 3-0 start in their American Hockey League campaign. While some of the success can be linked directly to some of the familiar players in the organization (Chris Mueller, Ryan Thang, Jeremy Smith), some of the new guys in the system have made immediate impacts.
One such player is Finnish forward Juuso Puustinen.In the first game, he scored a momentum changing goal early in the 3rd period of a 4-1 victory over the Peoria Rivermen.
In the second game he cashed in on a power play chance a little less than three minutes into the game to set the tone early against the Chicago Wolves.
In game three, his shootout score in the fifth round clinched another victory for the Admirals against the Wolves.
Coach Kirk Muller gives high marks for the skill set Puustinen brings to the team. "He's a strong skater, he's skilled, he's got the great shot, and that's why I put him on that power play. The big thing for him is to learn the North American game...the smaller ice surface, getting into areas to shoot."
While there are adjustments to make to the North American game after spending the last three years in Europe, this isn't his first rodeo in North America. He spent two years with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, and averaged a point per game while there.
"Five years ago I came to North America, and the two years I spent there, everything helps right now," Puustinen says. "All the friendships, everything with the game, everything with the language... I'm thankful so much that I came here a few years back. It's been a big help for me."
It's also helpful that two of his current teammates are former teammates. Defenseman Victor Bartley played on that WHL team, and center Jani Lajunen played with him in Europe.
The reason Puustinen came back to North America? No surprise here.
"The chance to play in the NHL. It's been my childhood dream, and now I have a chance to achieve it."
Puustinen is currently playing on a line with Lajunen and Kyle Wilson, and that's the only line that hasn't been shuffled over the first three games. Over the last two games, he has also been playing on the point during the power play opposite Ryan Ellis. And as much as Coach Muller has been pleased with the offensive side of things, he's also impressed with his play on the other end of the ice.
"He's really respecting the defensive part of the game, and because of that he's been getting lots of ice time. The line has been steady, and he's been getting scoring opportunities, so he's been a really good two-way player so far."
Respecting the defensive part of the game. That's a huge part of what makes guys successful in this organization. That's why Puustinen's ceiling is higher than other previous imports like Linus Klasen, and that's why we shouldn't be surprised to see him in a Predators uniform sometime over the next two seasons.