Jesse Puljujarvi spoke to a Finnish publication about his first professional season in North America, the bumps he’s faced along the way, and what he needs to improve on. Let’s break it down.
After falling into the Oilers’ lap as the fourth overall pick at last year’s NHL Entry Draft, many expected Jesse Puljujarvi to make an immediate impact at the NHL level. While that hasn’t happened just yet, there is absolutely nothing wrong with needing time to develop at the pro level. It’s just not something that we’re used to in Edmonton. Some players need seasoning before they’re ready for the big dance and it’s actually refreshing to see the Oilers leave the big Finn in Bakersfield, allowing him the time to do just that.
Let’s take a look at the interview and break it down (keep in mind this has been translated from Finnish). Shout out goes to Reddit user Snyyppis for the find over at the Oilers subreddit.
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID
When asked about his first year as a pro, Puljujarvi admitted that it hasn’t always been easy.
It hasn’t been easy (but) I’ve always been able to play and I haven’t had to think whether I’m playing tomorrow or not. I’ve lived in a hotel for three months and that’s not so nice either.
Sometimes I think about what it must be like for an 18-year old kid to show up in a different country, not knowing the language, and be expected to perform at a high level. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my life and I’ve been to many countries where I’ve had no idea what they were saying and sometimes that can get stressful.
I remember many times where I was sitting around feeling completely useless in regards to where I was, what was happening, and what the people around me were talking about and, at the same time, you’re 100% reliant on those strangers to get you by, trusting that they’re giving you the right information. For me, I was only backpacking on holidays and my only responsibilities were to make sure that I didn’t die, whereas Puljujarvi is trying to build a career.
It has been quite a process.
Putting it lightly, no doubt. When asked about the language barrier, Puljujarvi said:
My English is a lot better (and) I can talk to the guys now. At practice, the language hasn’t been that much of an issue, but at team meetings, I don’t always understand everything. Most of it, though.
Have you ever seen Lost in Translation? I think of that movie sometimes when I’m imagining what it must be like for Jesse Puljujarvi as he’s trying to figure out complex defensive systems when he can only understand some of the sounds that are hitting his ear holes. Put it this way: head over to YouTube and put on an instructional video that’s in Finnish with no subtitles. See how far you get. What else?
When asked about his time in Bakersfield:
I’ve done alright, but my style of relaxed playing has been missing here as well. It hasn’t been my own game that often.
I could be wrong but I see this quote as a young player that’s still trying to figure out what it means to be a pro. Think about it, normally kids Puljujarvi’s age would have been sent back to junior but he’s out there banging away against men in a solid pro league. Should it be any surprise that he hasn’t been able to run the show just yet? If I’m right, I think he’s being a little hard on himself, but I respect that.
My shot is still pretty bad and I need to learn to protect the puck better. And I do need to get a lot quicker. I do think that after all this I’ll be more prepared for next season.
From what I could get out of the Google translator, Puljujarvi seemed to be quite self-critical as he looks back on his first year and that’s a trait that shows character and a willingness to get better. I see a kid that knows he has areas to improve on and is aware that there is still plenty of work to be done before he can dominate games like he wants to do, and I’d bet we see a determined player showing up to camp in September.
While there have been a few bumps along the way, the Oilers have been smart to give Puljujarvi the time he needs to get comfortable with the pro game. From where I blog, they should have sent him down to Bakersfield sooner but I can still appreciate that they’re letting the steak marinate for a while before throwing it on the BBQ. What do you guys think?