When I think of the most skilled, exciting players to watch from this years draft, Patrik Puistola is one of the first names that come to mind. Coming out of the Tappara system, Puistola defines uber skill. He is highly creative and flashy, and has the willingness to keep trying new tricks even when they aren’t working. When you watch him its pretty obvious he is the most talented player on his team. He was an absolute joy to watch as the season went on, shutting down multiple concerns I had to start the season.
Puistola did so with the greatest under-18 season in Mestis (second tier mens league in Finland) history. He posted historic numbers with LeKi, propelling him to a slam dunk top-20 pick on my board.
|Birthday||January 11, 2001|
Skating: 50 – Puck Skills: 70 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 55 – Physicality: 45
As I said, Puistola skill level is elite. He has insane puck skills and isn’t afraid to hide it. In fact, I ranked Puistola’s puck skills as the very best in the entire 2019 NHL draft class. What separates Puistola from the rest is how he takes advantage of his defenders positioning. He understands how to put them in an awkward spot and to keep the puck away, which is very important for a player of Puistola’s size who can’t protect the puck well with their natural strength. He knows how to bait the defenders to play him with the stick, rather than the body, and that works to his credit because he is skilled enough to play the puck around them.
One-on-one there may not be a more threatening player to face in this draft. He can flat-out embarrass you with his puck-handling. Some times you just have to sit back and laugh. This kind of talent doesn’t grow on trees people!
This is a very lazy comparison but there is definitely some Elias Pettersson in him. The flashy stick-handling, creativity, shiftiness, and wow factor are all very similar. Initially, I was not a fan of his dazzling dekes. I felt he was forcing too many fancy plays just to make fancy plays, which is not a sign of high hockey IQ. But as time went on I continued to accept this is the style of game he plays, and while he could serve to make the safer more, I’d rather swing on the player who takes risks over the one that plays too conservative.
What also stands out to me is how excellent Puistola’s foot-work is. His skating as a whole won’t endear you to him, having just average top-speed. However, the pace he plays at more than makes up for it, which is where the foot-work comes into play. He does a great job of positioning himself to successfully pull off his move. This plays a big role in how shifty and difficult to contain he can be, even without blazing speed.
The one notable knock I have on him currently is he tends to disappear from time to time. I still get the impression he thinks his skill alone with be good enough to reaching new heights. When playing for the Finnish under-18 national team he was easily the most talented player on the team (Kaapo Kakko didn’t play for the under-18 team), but had many outings where he wasn’t even close to being their best player.
If Puistola can put together a consistent effort, don’t be surprised to see him absolutely explode into a star player.
His stat-line certainly backs that potential up. He lit up Mestis in Finland at a historic level. His 22 game stint is a small sample, but not many under-18 players last long in the second division. Nevertheless, he still scored 15 goals and 26 points. His 15 goals is the most ever by an under-18 player, running away with the record in terms of goals per game. On a point per game basis he owns the highest mark of any under-18 player ever (with at least 5 games played).
stats via eliteprospects.com
Puistola is one special talent. A player with his skill-set would gladly be welcomed on any team. The question really is how far will his skill take him. There is a certain drive that a winger needs to be top-line caliber. I’m not so sure he has that, but I do know he has game-breaking abilities that are extremely hard to come by, which makes him a good bet to become a top-6 scorer.
Puistola’s upside is enormous, but reaching his ultimate ceiling will be a difficult task, which is why he finds himself at number 16 on my board.
As of this writing Puistola is expected to play for Tappara in Finland’s top pro league for the 2019-20 season. The transition from lower levels varies from player to player, which raises question if that’s the best place for him to develop in. The pro experience is valuable, but some players are better off against their own age group to play to their strengths. Puistola didn’t fare well in his 16 Liiga games from this past season either, scoring just 1 point. And while Mestis is also a mens league, the difference in competition is staggering.
If things go south, a move to the CHL could always be an option if he’s brought over through the import draft or on loan. In terms of NHL arrival, Puistola is another player I would just wait and see. His timeline will depend greatly on how the upcoming season goes.