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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  • Time Travelling Sean

    All this talk about learning the game in the AHL, do we even have anyone to teach him there? I’d rather learn the game from Lucic and McDAvid and McClellan than Pitlick and whoever else is in the AHL.

  • 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….

  • 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.

  • KACaribou

    Let’s see now, all gifted spots:

    Hall got traded after years of him not reaching potential. The kid was a freak; speed, talent and Memorial Cup(s) and ended up being worth no more than a defensive D-man… a young one mind you.

    Nuge looked like the next coming of Wayne Gretzky when he played with Red Deer. Now he’s a defensive centre? He was the team’s first line centre at what 18 or 19?

    Yak looked like the next Pavel Bure. Now he’s gone after trying to turn him into a bottom 6 winger.

    McDavid captain at 18 years of age. Okay I agree with that one.

    Leon Draisaitl had a great start, then a downturn yet he never visited any AHL time.

    Nurse needed to percolate in the A for a couple more years but was hurried up.

    Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, gifted a spot and how did that work out?

    Eberle’s soft play may have been harded up if he was in the A a little… Gagne… Cogliano… Dubnik… Petry…

    Puljujarvi gifted a spot on the top line no doubt…. AND THE BEAT GOES ON…

  • The Perceptor

    The Oilers screwed up Yakupov’s development by gifting him a spot, they say, so what the heck, let’s trade him and gift another 18 year old his spot. Makes sense, right!?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hockeyfan

    I hope Pullithard starts in Edmonton. Why tarnish the record by developing a player properly, not the oiler way. Your lineup has 1 bright spot, Mcminus, that is it. Don’t forget that looming 11th year of consecutive playoffs misses, set in the new barn and all. Start him and play him 20 min. a game Tmac, damn the torpedoes.

  • tkfisher

    This is one of the biggest issues with the Yak trade. Ideally started both jP and cagguula in the AHL. Let them succeed there first. Put Versteeg on 2Rw Leon in the middle and Yak 3Rw. If the kids do well, pull them up. It’s not like Yak was going to lose value playing soft minutes with Drai. Let the young guys dominate and then move them in when they show some sustain in a higher league than what they played last year (AHL). Why the rush to skip a step.

  • 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.