Puljujarvi Gifted A Spot?

Why doesn’t his helmet fit?

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It’s clear with the team’s recent transactions that the Oilers are determined to never again gift a player NHL minutes before he earns them. No more entitled freeloaders who don’t belong. No more allowing draft position to determine roster spots…unless it’s Jesse Puljujarvi. Then that’s exactly what might happen.

This fall we got to see Jesse Puljujarvi dominate the Young Stars tournament. He was as good as any rookie I’ve seen at the tournament. He picked up eight points in three games against the various prospects of Pacific Division opponents and the University of Alberta Golden Bears. At that level of competition, his sizable talent was overpowering.

Unfortunately, since that time he has largely been invisible. The next jump in competition, came when NHL preseason started. The Oilers wasted no time placing the Finnish rookie on a line with Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (as soon as he returned from the World Cup of Hockey). They made sure that the rookie was insulated by linemates who were both offensively talented and defensively responsible.

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Jesse Puljujarvi appeared in as many games as any other Oiler during pre-season. Six games and we saw very little of the player who appeared to be unstoppable in the Young Stars tournament. Three players appeared in six preseason games for the Oil: Benoit Pouliot, Anton Slepyshev, and Jesse Puljujarvi. Pouliot had a goal and three assists. Slepyshev had a goal and two assists. Puljujarvi had just a single goal. And I don’t want to pile on the kid, but the goal was from long distance and is unlikely to occur against a real NHL goaltender.

No idea what’s happening here

It’s not just about points with Puljujarvi, though. The issue is that the chances were not being generated. In those six games, the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft generated just nine shots on net. Many of them from long range. Considering the opportunities he had with regards to linemates, this is concerning. Moving away from the shots, his passing has been incredibly suspect as well. This might have been highlighted in the last game where a pass to Maroon missed by roughly six feet…vertically. It hit him in the head!

The Oilers do ultimately have the ability to assign Jesse Puljujarvi to the American Hockey League. Because he was drafted out of Europe there is no agreement in place that precludes him from playing in the AHL until he is 20 years old like a CHL prospect. Based on everything we’ve seen from the young player these last couple weeks, it almost seems impossible to determine he has earned a spot on the NHL club.

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Here’s the thing. Edmonton traded Nail Yakupov and opened a spot on the right wing. Should they want Draisaitl playing down the middle to give the club strength down the middle, that opens TWO spots on the right wing. The team has yet to formally sign Kris Versteeg to a contract, but even if they do it is still possible for Puljujarvi to walk right into a roster spot that was cleared for him by management.

We’ve done this before. The Oilers traded Sam Gagner for winger Teddy Purcell in order to open a spot for Leon Draisiatl when he was drafted. The Oilers put themselves in a position to hand Draisaitl a spot because there was no competition at all for the job. He easily won a job campaigning against nobody else and was exposed in the NHL. The Oilers burned a year of his contract (forcing them to protect him in the expansion draft next spring) and he had to be sent down to the CHL halfway through the year.

This is the recent past! This isn’t something that happened so long ago it’s easy to forget. All indications so far have Puljujarvi playing on the third line with Draisaitl on the 2nd line as a winger. This also necessitates having Drake Caggiula as the 3C. Now Edmonton has two rookies playing in the NHL (on the same line) instead of developing in the AHL. No matter how much things change they always seem to stay the same with this club.

I think Jesse Puljujarvi is wildly talented and the future is incredibly bright for this kid. He should be playing almost 20 minutes a night getting used to the North American game. He has not been successful against NHL or near-NHL levels of competition thus far. Considering the great value of a 4th overall pick, the Oilers should be doing everything possible to ensure the success of this teenage player. There is no shame in not being ready for NHL competition as an 18-year-old. The decision to put him at a level he can succeed in should be even easier because unlike with Draisaitl after being sent to the CHL, the Oilers can recall Puljujarvi from the AHL whenever they would like.

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Today the Oilers need a RW and are in a position where if they want they could sign Versteeg and still find a home for Puljujarvi because they cleared the space for him. I hope they come to some senses here and make the right decision for the player based on what he’s accomplished thus far and not his draft position. He needs time to develop. He needs to play in the AHL.

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  • bazmagoo

    Jesse hasn’t earned a spot, and he looked really bad last night. A lot of give aways and a lot of panic. The Oilers should make him earn his spot in the AHL. I’d rather have Versteeg and/or Maroon on the right side for lines 2/3. Cagguila has earned a spot on 3rd line LW/C. Jesse should play with Slepyshev and Kharia.

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    Does anyone know the exact status of Versteeg’s injury? I know the Oil are very tight lipped but Versteeg has been day to day for a couple of weeks?

    I’m not sold on JP starting in the NHL, but linking that to the Yak trade is hendo-crapolla.

  • Oiler Al

    He should be on the bus south as we speak, but here we go again……the kid just turned 18 few months ago, barely speaks English, etc. etc. As others have suggested Nurse should be on the same bus.

    On another note, I would fire Flemings butt out of Bakersfield. He plays vets to save his sorry butt, not sure how he even holds his job.

  • hockey1099

    Yak was not traded to make a spot for JP. Yak was traded becuase he is a terrible hockey player with a bad attitude who asked for a trade. The club wanted yak gone long before Columbus gifted us JP

  • RJ

    Matt can come across as whiny.

    But he’s one of a few bloggers in Edmonton that don’t seem like they get their articles from the Oilers PR team.

    And he’s right. You have some bloggers and “fans” who have cried constantly about earning your spot, but suddenly go silent when it comes to team favorites.
    Puljujarvi should be in the AHL. He hasn’t earned his position, but he’s a PC pick so he gets all the time in the world.

    I have yet to see the ON article calling out Eberle for the worst season of his career. I have yet to see the ON article calling out Nuge for his lack of scoring. I did not see one article criticizing Hall for his selfish play…until he was traded. Then the knives came out. No one criticizes Mr. Glass Klefbom. Lucic has been too slow, and he’s not the player he was in 2011.

    But most bloggers take their direction from the PR staff. Kudos to Matt for actually having a pair.

    • Shameless Plugger

      Actually having a pair, or writing a self serving article that garners comments from the disgruntled? Take the blinders off bud, it’s all about mouse clicks and stirring the pot.

      • Do you think JP should be in the NHL based on what you saw? Do you think my position on JP is not something I actually believe but instead wrote for “clicks”?

        I don’t mind people taking shots at me because I’m a contrarian at heart, but I do take issue with the suggestion that I’m writing self serving crap that I know will just stir the pot.

        I don’t have to worry about my access getting cut off from the team. They don’t recognize bloggers. I’m free to challenge decisions the club makes without sources leaving me. I respect that you probably just want some bubblegum. When I feel like writing that, I will.

        Until then, you get articles I believe in. I can’t promise you quality (though I like to think it’s good content), but I can promise you I don’t write for clicks.

        • Cowbell_Feva

          Arch guy I usually don’t agree with you. Namely on Nail Yakupov, but alas.

          You have hit the nail on the head with Puljujarvi. He has looked overwhelmed by the speed of the watered down preseason….what will he look like come regular season? God forbid on a line with Caggulia. I love his upside, but the AHL should make him better. A little bit of the Detroit model in seasoning players ie.Tatar/Nyquist etc….Anthony Mantha scored 70 goals in the Q and just finally saw some NHL time towards the end of last season. Nearly 2 full seasons in the A….not that Puljujarvi needs that long but….some time would help!

        • camdog

          For your next bog you could write a bubble gum piece about how great the Oilers depth is on RW is?

          You could also write a blog on how RnH is progressing nicely into that Jonathan Toews type centre that the Oilers media opts have been hinting at for years now. I could come up with a few more gems for you, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine!

  • Shameless Plugger

    I ask with Hendricks, Pakirinen and Versteeg healthy JP would make the team ? My oipnion no. Gifted a spot he was not. A Matter of circumstance he made it. I don’t see a more capable candidate from the farm. Do you?

  • BlueHairedApe

    Truth is JP will most likely be given an opportunity. Based on draft pedigree, prior play in a men’s league, performance in his rookie camp, cohesiveness with other players, team needs, etc, etc. This will be no different than the opportunity Yak was given…hopefully he doesn’t blow it and if he does hopefully the organization handles it differently this time around. As in if he doesn’t make significant progress by game nine send him to the minors to properly develop his game.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    It would be nice to sign Versteeg on that 3rd line while JP plays in the AHL.

    I think playing in the AHL getting use to the rink size and the NA game for at least half a year would be in the players best interest.

    Having said that I don’t think the Oilers gifted JP anything, players are injuried right now.

  • Mitch92

    Anyone who thinks the Oilers will sign Kris Versteeg to play over Jesse Puljujärvi clearly has a limited understanding of the PTO. With Versteeg already missing time with injury while on his PTO does not bode well for his chances of getting signed. Look around the league. PTOs are falling like snow in Saskatchewan. PTOs are there to push the kids. Hard to do when you are on the sidelines with an injury.

    • camdog

      My guess is they are hoping a better RW’er comes up on the waiver wire, because if there’s one guy that hasn’t earned a roster spot on this team it’s Versteeg and there should be no doubt about that. Sure he was a good hockey player 5 years ago, but so was Ference…

  • whateverhappenedtoearledwards

    As of today the Oil have 24 players on their roster (excluding Hendricks, Pakarrinnen and Ferrence all on IR) and also excluding Versteeg (still no word on actually signing this guy that I have heard). So if they don’t make any moves they need to trim by1 (2 If Versteeg is available). If they decide to go with 14 forwards and 7 D, they already have their compliment of forwards. If they decide to go with 13 and 8, then one goes (candidates would be Landner (most likely), JP, Schelpshev (neither has to clear waivers). If they decide to go with 13 and 8 and Versteeg is signed and available then 2 have to go.

    The Oil have 8 Dmen (excluding Ferrence). So if they go with 13/8 Benning will start his pro career in the NHL. If they go with 14/7 then who goes? Benning and Nurse don’t have to clear waivers and Fayne cleared last year.

    If JP stays it’s because he has beat out either Shelpshev and/or Lander, this doesn’t seem a stretch or a “gift”.

    Gifting implies that JP has been not as good as alternates available, I don’t think that necessarily so. I also suggest that TM had more than enough of Yak and he was never going to the ice here, regardless.

    Yak’s status was all about Yak, no one else. This is something the Yak city crew never really came to grips with.

    • camdog

      We’ve gone down this road multiple times. The Oilers cleared a roster spot for the kid and then they gave him competition that quite frankly is the poorest out of the other 30 teams in the league at his position. Other than Ebs the other RW’s on this team are either minor leaguers or cast offs from other teams.

      Moving Yak reminds me of when they moved Horcoff and they they spent the next number of years looking for somebody that could do what he could do. Heck they still haven’t replaced him, the only difference is that they drafted Yak’s replacement at the draft. Problem is, he’s still 2 years from being NHL ready, well that’s the way about 25 NHL teams (you know teams that make the playoffs) would see it.