The Edmonton Oilers fourth overall pick in 2016 has had a stagnant rookie season. Jesse Puljujarvi has dressed for 27 of Edmonton’s 39 games, often playing under 10 minutes a game. Puljujarvi has only eight points during this time, which raises the question whether the winger belongs in the NHL. The Oilers’ handling of Puljujarvi’s rookie season mirrors one of a similar high Peter Chiarelli-draft pick, Tyler Seguin.
Looking back at Puljujarvi and Seguin’s first 27 games shows a fairly similar usage between the two players with one key difference: an extra minute and a half on the power play for Seguin. Despite Seguin’s limited time at even strength, Bruins head coach Claude Julien still made him a regular on the team’s power play, while Puljujarvi saw most of his time at 5-on-5. Neither rookie played much shorthanded so it’s interesting to see Julien found a role for Seguin on the Bruins’ power play while McLellan has been reluctant to utilize Puljujarvi with the man advantage.
Despite this difference, Puljujarvi is on pace to match Seguin’s rookie total of 22 points if he plays the majority of the season going forward. Seguin’s development would be encouraging to the Oilers’ organization as he blossomed the following season scoring 29 goals and 67 points and has been among the league’s top scorers since.
Seguin has developed fine even though he was rarely used his rookie season, although, the options were different for Seguin than for Puljujarvi. Because Seguin was drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League he was restricted by the CHL-NHL agreement. The rule states that a CHL player cannot play in either the AHL or ECHL unless they are 20-years-old by December 31st of that year or have played four years of major junior hockey. Seguin either had to go back to Plymouth, where he scored 273 points in 124 games, or stay with the Bruins in the NHL.
Since Puljujarvi was drafted out of a European league he is eligible to head straight to the AHL as an 18 year old, similar to other high drafted Europeans William Nylander and Mikko Rantanen, or even another Chairelli pick, David Pastrnak. Although Pastrnak played in a lower tier European league in his draft year he was still assigned to Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence the following season. Pastrnak found early success with Providence and continued his scoring when Boston recalled him. When prompted by reporters in a media availability on December 13th, Chiarelli talked about the comparisons between Pastrnak and Puljujarvi. Chairelli noted that “the language is a big issue,” for Puljujarvi while, “David knew the language really well.” and wouldn’t have been as affected by the culture shock as Puljujarvi would be.
The development of Puljujarvi, while strange, isn’t that uncommon for a team with Peter Chairelli at the helm. Tyler Seguin produced significantly after his restrained rookie year, although the AHL wasn’t an option for him. Playing limited minutes at the NHL level immediately didn’t harm Seguin long-term. While Puljujarvi is eligible to play in the AHL, it seems like Chiarelli and the Oilers feel having Puljujarvi learning the language and playing a bit in the NHL is more beneficial than plying his trade with big minutes for the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.