PUUSTINEN PROVIDING POINTS EARLY
Valtteri Puustinen is no stranger to goal scoring. His 21 tallies with HPK last season led the Finnish Liiga squad, and made him one of just four skaters to top the 20-goal mark in the league.
But even with that pedigree, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach J.D. Forrest wasn’t sure what to expect from the 22-year old forward when he joined the club in October.
“It’s interesting. He’s not the biggest guy but he’s a competitor,” said Forrest. “He works hard out there, he’s extremely smart, and he sees the ice at a really high level.”
It didn’t take long for Puustinen to announce his presence. He netted the Penguins first goal of the season – a power play marker – as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton posted a 2-1 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on October 16.
A week later, Puustinen scared off the Phantoms on his own, netting two goals, including the OT winner, at the PPL center.
Puustinen added to his team-leading point total by assisting on a pair of Radim Zohorna goals on October 27 (once again against the Phantoms), and picked up a pair of points (1+1) in Saturday’s win over the Springfield Thunderbirds. Included in that Saturday statline was a helper on Nathan Legare’s overtime tally.
“So he’s been able to find holes, find guys open. And then when he has the opportunity to shoot the puck, he’s got a real dangerous release,” said Forrest.
The 203rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft is off to a hot start, ranking tied for 11th in league scoring with eight points (4+4) through Monday. Forrest hopes it’s just the a preview of things to come.
“I’m really happy just with his commitment to the game. Trying to understand exactly the differences between here and home for him. And how he can adjust,” he stated.
“It’s a short sample size, but it’s been nice to watch so far.”
SCARING UP POINTS AGAINST THE PHANTOMS
The Penguins have five wins through their first seven contests this season, with three of those victories coming against the Phantoms.
And while the two clubs will face off a dozen times this season, it’s never too early to start thinking about how valuable these early-season contests could be when it comes to playoff positioning.
“It always comes down to a tight race at the end [of the season],” Forrest said.. Whether it’s one, two or 10 [points], you’re thinking about a game in October, November, December, that maybe you gave up a point here, or you should have got two instead of one in an overtime situation. So anytime you’re collecting them, it’s good, especially against division rivals.
“We just have to make sure we’re not happy with what we’ve accomplished….we have a lot more to give.”
The Penguins’ next home game is Friday, Nov. 5, when they host the Providence Bruins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza with game time scheduled for 7:05 p.m. For Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s showdown with Providence, $2 select draft beers will be available from 6:00-7:30 courtesy of the PA Prostate Cancer Coalition.
Individual game tickets and season-ticket packages for the 2021-22 season are on sale now. Full-Season, 22- game, 12-game, Flexbook and Premium Seating plans are available by reaching out to the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.