One of the things that Peter Chiarelli has taken care of in his time as the Edmonton Oilers’ general manager is available depth on the farm. Forward, defence, goaltending; all positions have solid minor-league players just waiting for their chance to impress.
In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask whether two of those players have done enough to earn another shot in the majors.
Jesse Puljujarvi spent the early part of the season with the Oilers, playing 28 games and recording one goal and eight points overall. He was sent down after long stretches in the press box, and even when dressed didn’t play a lot, topping the 10 minute mark just twice in his final nine games in Edmonton.
Since then, he’s played 22 games for the Bakersfield Condors, scoring nine times and picking up 20 points total.
In his February 14 availability, Chiarelli mentioned how impressed he’d been with the 2016 fourth overall pick during a recent visit to California:
He’s getting a lot of touches and you can see his confidence is coming back. The defensive side of the game is getting better. He’s made a lot of progress down there, he’s playing a lot of minutes. He’s going to be in the [recall] conversation come the deadline. He’s a dangerous player down there; he’s far and above the most dangerous player I’ve seen in both the games down there. I was happy with what I saw.
The drawbacks to recalling Puljujarvi basically come down to age. He plays a mature game for an 18-year-old but is understandably not a perfectly well-rounded forward at this point in his development. What he brings is size, speed, a right shot and perhaps more offensive confidence than he had when he left Edmonton.
Anton Lander, meanwhile, is arguably the best player in the AHL.
Prior to being assigned to Bakersfield, he played 22 games for the Oilers, scoring one goal and picking up four points in total. He was handed a steady diet of defensive zone starts, some time on the PK and precious little ice-time at 5-on-5, averaging less than eight minutes per game at even-strength.
Thus, his offensive totals are better than they appear. He performed competently on the penalty kill. He won 56 percent of his draws overall and 58 percent of his even-strength faceoffs.
Since being sent down he’s picked up 21 goals and 42 points in just 25 games. In the minors he’s an elite two-way centre, the Patrice Bergeron of the AHL, and a character player besides. He’s not fast nor overly big, but he’d bring defensive ability, intelligence and just maybe a little more offence than expected to a regular job with the Oilers.
That brings us back to our question: If you ran the Oilers, would you bring one or both of these forwards up to the big club? And if you did, where would you play them?