Could Jesse Pulkkinen be the perfect second round target for the Calgary Flames?

Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
27 days ago
While it may feel counter-intuitive to target double-entry draftees this early, Jesse Pulkkinen’s progress this past season makes a compelling case for an exception.
The 19-year-old defender made significant strides while climbing the ladder within the Finnish circuit, starting at the U20 level and finishing in Liiga, Finland’s top league. Although his offensive numbers didn’t match those at the U20 level, for obvious reasons, his incredible size and developed skill were on full display.
The Flames hold picks 41 and 62, putting them directly in range to give Pulkkinen’s a look, based on his draft projection.
Could they use a towering left-shot defender?

Scouting report

Pulkkinen, a towering 6’6″ defenceman, combines incredible size and skill on the backend, quickly rising as one of this year’s more capable rearguards. One of Pulkkinen’s go-to attributes lies within his skating ability, which is exceptional for a player of his size. He moves fluidly on the ice, with strong lateral mobility and acceleration that allow him to keep up with faster forwards and recover quickly when caught out of position.
Of course, given his towering size, it’s no surprise that Pulkkinen’s physicality is a significant asset as well. He leverages his body to his advantage, whether it’s clearing the front of the net or engaging in board battles.

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Offensively, he is known as a dual-threat attacker from the blue line, boasting a powerful shot and solid playmaking skills for the quick play. He has a quick release and can get his shot through traffic, and his vision and passing ability enable him to set up teammates for scoring opportunities, whether in transition or in zone time.
Defensively, Pulkkinen is solid and reliable. His size allows him to be physically dominant, and he is not afraid to use his body to make impactful checks. He has a good understanding of positioning and uses his stick effectively to block shots and disrupt plays.

What they’re saying

Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff
“Pulkkinen is the best overage prospect on the market – one whom I wouldn’t be surprised if an NHL team took in the first round. This is a 19-year-old who only seems to keep getting better the more I watch him, especially during the World Juniors. At 6-foot-6 and 216 pounds, he has the size teams crave.”
David St-Louis, EP Rinkside
“The 19-year-old Finnish defencemen, an overager in this 2024 draft class, is in the middle of a breakout season. With his 6-foot-6 frame, he will immediately stand out on the ice to scouts, but it’s really his high-end stickhandling skills that give him the best chance of impressing them. His feints and toe-drag moves could surprise a few defenders and help the Finnish team generate scoring chances in the offensive zone. To cement himself as one of the better defensive prospects in this new draft, Pulkkinen will have to continue showing that he can manage the puck well and defend at a high level.”
Sebastian High, DobberProspects
“Towering, mobile left-handed defenceman with great poise and tools. Needs to rein in the offensive aggression, but can develop into a unique second-pair blue-liner.”

The numbers and fit

After a draft-eligible season of just four assists through 44 games at the U20 SM-sarja circuit last season, Pulkkinen came back with a vengeance this time around. He broke out with eight goals and 28 points in just 18 games, finishing as the league’s leading point-per-game defender by season’s end.
With the U20 league mastered, Pulkkinen was promoted to the Mestis (AHL equivalent), where he recorded another four points (two goals, two assists) in six games. From there, it was up to Liiga, finishing his season playing among men at the highest Finnish rank. While his eight points (two goals, six assists) in Liiga were modest, he finished second among rookie defenders to fire at a 0.28 point-per-game clip.
Pulkkinen’s breakout 2023-24 season has drawn comparisons to top NHL defencemen like Zdeno Chara and Victor Hedman, known for their combination of size, skating, and offensive capabilities. If Pulkkinen continues to develop, he has the potential to ease his way into a top-four role in Calgary.
If selected, he instantly slots in among the top of the Flames’ left-side defensive depth, and most certainly gives them that competitive and size advantage.

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