Selected with Carolina’s first of three third-round picks (73rd overall) in 2019, Puistola was lauded by many around the industry as a solid value pick for a player who slid down the board a bit on the second day of the draft. In his draft year, Puistola averaged over a point per game as a 17-year-old in the Mestis, Finland’s version of the AHL after receiving his first taste of Liiga, playing 16 games for a loaded Tappara team.
Last season, he played his first full season in Liiga, splitting time between three different organizations and posting 12 points in 45 games. In just 19 games this season, Puistola has six points, on pace to pass his totals from a year ago, but has still lacked some of the night in, night out consistency that is necessary to take the next step in his development.
Internationally, the young winger has averaged over a point-per-game at the U-17, U-18, and U-20 levels, including eight points in seven games at last year’s World Juniors, so it was puzzling that he was left off this year’s roster as the team’s leading goal scorer and eligible returnee.
As a skilled offensive threat, Puistola should continue to show up more on the scoresheet over the next couple of seasons. JYP has a strong group of young players who should continue to grow together as a talented core, including Carolina draftee Anttoni Honka, Samuel Helenius (2021 Eligible) and Brad Lambert (2022 Eligible) who at 17 could be one of the top names off the board in his draft year.
Puistola needs to continue to improve his skating, which is the biggest developmental flaw in his game at this point. Whether his skating will improve to the point where he can win one-on-one battles as he continues to move up competition levels, will likely control how high his ceiling will be as a prospect. Defensively, he is capable and willing, but he will be known for the offensive side of the puck.
He should be able to make the AHL jump in a couple seasons, but unlike in the past with the Hurricanes’ organization, there is no pressure to fast-track players through their development to fill holes in a depleted roster. Carolina has a wealth of wingers who have been added to their system in recent drafts, with top players like Dominik Bokk and Seth Jarvis leading the way. Puistola is a nice piece that represents the second tier of those wingers, and he should provide solid depth with a high ceiling as he moves through the organization.