Finn prospect wants to win

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

The Stanley Cup is well known all across Europe.

But Finland's Juuso Puustinen covets a prize less commonly known in his homeland this year.

"To win the Memorial Cup," said the 6-ft.-2 product of Kuopio during the Calgary Flames development camp at Don Hartman Sportsplex, which wrapped up yesterday.

"I want to win something."

Puustinen suffers from bridesmaid syndrome, having too often finished as a runner-up during his hockey years.

"I've always been second in every place," said the Flames' fifth-round pick of last year's draft. "Every time, second."

His venture into North American hockey began last season in Kamloops, where he posted strong numbers as a WHL rookie, helping the Blazers to second in the B.C. Division.

In the playoffs, though, they were swept by the Prince George Cougars, ending any hope Puustinen had of finally hoisting a trophy.

"It was a couple of years ago when I heard it's possible for Europeans to come here to play hockey," said Puustinen, whose favourite NHLers are Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk. "Then me and my friend, we started looking at things on the Internet and we found the Memorial Cup."

With his move to the WHL came a new confidence resulting in a 71-point campaign (32 goals and 39 assists in just 64 games).

He admits he was surprised by his output.

"I thought I would maybe score 10 goals and I would be satisfied, but the goals just kept coming," Puustinen said. "It's all because of the coaching staff and the teammates."

The support of a great billet family didn't hurt, either. Cheryl and Ryan Austin and sons Zac, 8, and Nolan, 5, hosted him for more than eight months, even making the trek to Calgary for a few of days of development camp.

On the ice for the first time in two months (because most rinks in Finland are melted for roller-hockey in the summers) Puustinen has his sights set on emulating Iginla and bringing the Memorial Cup back to Kamloops.

He may finally get a chance to meet his idol.

"Maybe at training camp," Puustinen said hopefully. "I hope I'll play someday with him but I need to work really hard."


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