Puljujarvi Gifted A Spot?

Why doesn’t his helmet fit?

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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  • Morgo_82

    I agree 100% he should be starting the year in the AHL, there’s nothing wrong with doing that in fact I think it’s a significantly better option than throwing him the wolves because he’s shown that he’s not ready yet. Play Draisaitl on the second line as a RW, sign Versteeg and put him on the third line; let this young man develop properly. C’mon Oilers, you need to be better than this if you want to succeed.

  • Danglishish

    The underlying problem with your argument is that you suggest they traded Yakupov in order to open the spot for Jessie. Can we not ignore reality as documented over the last several months?

    He requested a trade. He is on the record as saying that he has no intent to change his style of play. The fact that he was still on the team at this stage is shocking to be honest. Saying Chia traded him in order to gift a spot to someone is just ridiculous. And you know that.

    Let it go man. We get it. Oilers management has always been and will always be terrible. They don’t understand the complex nature of the Yak the way you do. You’ve made your point. I suspect by Christmas when he isn’t in the Blues lineup you will blame Hitchcock for the same things. Just let it go. It’s getting lame.

  • Spydyr

    Puljujarvi is a wonderful player and he could be the best player of the draft. Better than Laine and maybe even better than Matthews. It was a very happy day when he fell into the Oilers laps.

    That being said, what is wrong with developing a player by letting him learn the North American game and perhaps dominate at the AHL level before throwing him to the wolves in the NHL.

  • MessyEH!

    Too bad we didn’t have a 22 year old winger with a record of producing points when playing with skill. You know someone to keep JP’S seat warm while he developed in the AHL.

    Maybe we could trade a third rounder for a Right Winger with draft pedigree and a strong sense of community.

  • jdh10899

    Whats the update on drake caggiula?
    Having him in the 3C spot and signing Versteeg is the optimal plan based on their play this preseason, with Pulj in the AHL for parts of this year, until injury sadly inevitably hits someone.

  • Oilerz4life

    Yak Nation Matty. PJ is way stronger along the boards than…”being chased by bees.” Versteeg is injured, Chia is watching the waiver wire and Pool Party has 9 games before being sent to the farm, or not, he hasn’t “been gifted” anything yet, it’s preseason.

      • Oilerz4life

        Oh that’s right too, that’s cool, they can take their time with his development. Maybe he ends up like Drai where he goes down for 50 games. I’m impressed with PJ’so game though. He dominated the Penticton tourney and he seems pretty strong along the boards. I think he’ll be a great NHLer, even in a bottom 6 role he’s got the size and know how IMHO.

  • Well he can’t be any less effective than Yak. The passive aggression towards that trade is strong with you…
    For the sake of the argument let’s say he is directly replacing Yakupov in the lineup. I would argue he will be more effective than Yak.

    Trash for no, Cheer for yes.

  • Shameless Plugger

    I think once Versteeg is signed/healthy you’ll see him slide into JP’s spot on the third line, thus insulating Caggiula with two veteran wingers. JP then goes down to Bakersfield for development. At least I hope that’s the plan.

  • I am Batman

    Guess in 3 years we will trade Puljujarvi for a prospect and a 3rd round pick because that’s what Chia is very good at.

    There was absolutely no need to dump Yak for nothing, not even to sign Russel… The oilers have like 8 million in cap space, if they were high on Russel, they just needed to sign him….

    As bad as Yak may or may not be, he is an NHL player and would have filled the void. PJ has looked completely out of place in pre-season. Versteeg nowhere to be seen…. This is really bad.

    And now on top of everything we have Caggiula playing 3rd line center?

    We’ve seen this movie…. The easiest part of the schedule is October, we don’t go 7-3 and we are done….