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No. 16 Valtteri Pulli: Sharks land highly touted European defenseman

There are a lot of new faces on this 25 Under 25 list and Valtteri Pulli is one of the more intriguing ones. A lot of teams wanted to sign the Finnish defenseman when he announced that he would move to the NHL in March.

Teams like the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins all talked to Pulli hoping to get him under contract. Somehow, the Sharks won. In May, San Jose signed Pulli to a two-year entry-level contract.

“Valtteri is a solid defenseman with size,” said Sharks General Manager Mike Grier. “He plays important minutes for good programs in TPS and the Finnish National Team camps.”

Size is right. At 6-foot-6, 209 pounds, he’s just what Grier is looking for in a defenseman.

Position: Defense
Height: 6-foot-6
Weight: 209 lbs.
Age: 22
Date of Birth: March 13, 2001
Draft Year: Undrafted
Shoots: Left
2023-24 Team: San Jose Barracuda

Last season, Pulli played for TPS of Liiga in Finland. He had 17 points (3 G, 14 A), setting career highs in all three categories. His plus-four rating was tied for third highest on the team. By the end of the season, he was averaging 19:17 minutes of ice time per game.

What we like

Pulli is what they call a late bloomer. He’s added a couple of inches and about 25 pounds since he was 18. But despite his size, Pulli is a smooth skater. He’s able to maneuver through defenders and around the net with ease. He won’t be the fastest guy on the ice, but his size and thus his long stride make up for a lot of that. His long stick and big body help keep the puck out of the reach of smaller defenders.

Pulli is not going to pile on the goals. Like number 21 on our list, Nikita Okhotiuk, Pulli is the kind of player who will be defensively responsible while adding to the team’s offense when possible.

Areas of improvement

This will be Pulli’s first time playing on North American ice. He played in Finland’s Liiga and international tournaments but never on North American ice, at least not consistently. One of his biggest concerns for Pulli this season is getting used to playing on a different-sized ice surface. He’ll need to adjust his game.

Luckily, he has some experience with that. In the Finnish Liiga, not all ice surfaces are the same size. Some are smaller and some are larger; there is no uniform size for an arena’s playing surface. So, it may be an easy adjustment for Pulli.

The other issue is size. Pulli’s 6-foot-6 frame can be just as much of a detriment as it is an asset. He’s taller than other players, so his shoulders are right at head height. With the league cracking down on head hits, Pulli will have to be careful when laying the body on an opposing player.

In February, he was suspended by Liiga for five games after checking an opponent in the head.


All of that aside, Pulli has the size and skill to become a solid defenseman in the NHL if his development path continues the way it is currently trending.

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