The Edmonton Oilers have selected Jesse Puljujarvi fourth overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Virtually nobody expected Puljujarvi to be available with the No. 4 selection. Most mock drafts had him as the third-best prospect in the draft; there was even some speculation that the Winnipeg Jets might take him second overall. Instead, the Columbus Blue Jackets, went off-script in the No. 3 slot, selecting Pierre-Luc Dubois out of the QMJHL, a very talented player most outlets projected to go around fifth overall.
Puljujarvi is believed to be NHL-ready, and is basically a dream come true for Edmonton at right wing, a 6’3″, 200-pound right shot who plays a mature two-way game.
The Hockey News, in part, had this to say in their 2016 Draft Preview:
Unlike Laine, Puljujarvi is more of a playmaker and 200-foot player than a pure scorer. He’s not expected to have the same offensive impact Laine will at the NHL level, but there’s a two-way component to his game that scouts like … Puljujarvi will never shortchange his team in effort. But while he’s hugely competitive he’s far more than just a high-motor guy. “Sometimes people see his competitiveness and activity, they get caught looking at that and forget what a good player he is.”
International Scouting Services had a similar view of the player in their 2016 Draft Guide:
Played for SM-Liiga powerhouse offense in Karpat and has developed his way into a core member of their offense. Was MVP and dominant at times at U18 and finished the tournament with a hat trick, as Finland beat Sweden 6-1 to win the gold medal. Forces opposition players to respect his shot, which is elite, and can create plays because of this. Big and strong with a long reach and he just shrugs guys off. Always seems to have good body position whether protecting the puck or defending. Has a powerful skating stride and has another gear when needed – responsible in all three zones – soft quick hands and a heavy shot. Reads the play well and plays well away from the puck. Has excellent hockey sense. Character guy with all the attributes to be a top end player in the NHL – Showed superstar potential.
Puljujarvi played just over 15:00 per game in Finland’s top league last season, and that increased to 16:30 per game in the postseason. Finland’s top league tracks advanced stats, and thanks to that we know that Puljujarvi got a bit of a bump in terms of offensive zone starts but also had a 57.5% Corsi rating for Karpat, which led all regular forwards on the team.
There is a lot to like about this selection. Puljujarvi brings size, speed and skill, and gets high marks for competitiveness and two-way play. He’s a right-shot on a team crying out for them, and it’s entirely possible that he’ll be ready to step into the lineup immediately.
Concerns are minimal. Puljujarvi has not had a high shooting percentage in either of his two years at the pro level in Finland, so there’s some reason for worry that he won’t be a pure goal-scorer, though he can help in other ways. His readiness to step into the NHL immediately may also further exacerbate Edmonton’s bonus cushion problems; because the team has so many entry-level contracts with bonuses it cannot defer them all, and so increasingly they act like a hard cap.
Based on what we know today, though, this is a fantastic addition for the Oilers.