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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Puljujarvi Speaks, Baggedmilk Analyzes

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?

  • Risto's Canon

    I thought his shot was one of the bright spots for him so it’s a bit surprising he’s saying it’s bad. Unless he’s meaning he hasn’t been able to shoot as much and that got lost in translation.

    Either way, I agreee it’s nice to see him identify growth opportunities, just hope he’s not losing general confidence in himself along the way.

    • The older I get, the better I was...

      It may be that he is referring to the speed in releasing the shot rather than the shot itself. I suspect that defenders are on him quicker in the AHL/NHL that he has seen before so there is less time for the “Eberle” dust off before getting the shot away.

      I’m looking forward to his training camp next year, after of course the Oilers get through a couple of rounds in this year’s playoffs.

  • Hemmercules

    Wish they would have sent him down sooner but Im sure they had their reasons. He will have to work hard this summer and improve overall. Hopefully he has a good showing at training camp and makes the decision to send him down again a tough one.

  • Shredder

    Kid’s going to be a stud next year. Let’s give him the year to figure out the language, pro life, etc. Next year will be like adding a $6M man to an already great lineup. I think the Oil are poised for success for years to come when you’ve got guys like him down in the minors. Tkachuk may have made the Flames immediately, but Puljujarvi will be the better offensive player in the long run.

    • Hemmercules

      I like Jesse just fine but I dont know where this crazy optimism comes from. What has he ever done that makes anyone thinks he’s going to be an NHL stud on par with 6 million dollar players when he’s 19 years old next season?? His first NHL stint didn’t leave me feeling quite that confident and as far as I can tell he’s not lighting up the AHL this year either. Could be another Yakupov for all we know, at least they have his development somewhat in mind this time.

      Tkachuk currently has 46 points in the NHL, Jesse was sent down with 8 points after an extended look. I wouldn’t go so far as to say one will be better than the other just yet but as of right now Tchachuk may have been more suited to the Oilers roster if you ask me. I’m hoping Jesse proves me wrong.

      • GinYCC

        Thachuk was more NHL ready the Puljaarvi. He played the small ice his entire life, was around The NHL environment his whole life, and he speaks English. Thachuk stepped into a relatively shallow team where he got lots of minutes on a scoring line. To his credit he took advantage of them. Puljarvi on the other hand only got limited minutes on a checking line in his time with the Oilers. I believe if you look at it from a points/60 standpoint they’re probably close. Don’t mistake talent with opportunity. Puljaarvi will get there.

        • Lazarus

          Which is hilarious as pre draft Puljujarvi was supposedly one of 3 NHL ready players along with Matthews and Laine. He most certainly wasn’t.
          It was Tkachuk that everyone said needed to go back to Jr. and was supposedly riding the coattails of Marner and Dvorak.

          Oops

        • Lazarus

          Also the fact that Kekalainen passed on his fellow Finn who was supposed to be a slam dunk top 3 pick has to make you wonder.. Pool Party’s lacklustre first season seems to give some credence to his move

        • Sammy p

          To say that Tkachuk is NHL ready isn’t quite accurate ,he has yet to learn that the crap that he got away with in Jr. isn’t gonna fly at the pro level ,slewfoots and head shots have already made him a marked man around the league ,the word gets around quickly amongst players on other teams and the kid will have to endure the coming treatment from his fellow NHLers.
          Live by the sword ,die by the sword, it’s inevitable.

        • Hemmercules

          Drai was a playoff and Memorial cup MVP. I personally think he’s on another level than Jesse but we will see.

          I believe Jesse had time with Drai and Maroon as well as some time with McD so I wouldn’t say he played only checking line minutes with plugs. Not saying he’s junk, I think he will be a decent player, I just think expectations are on a Yakupov level for this kid already.

          • toprightcorner

            JP is close to a point per game in the AHL, points wise, he likely would have been close to Draisaitl when he returned to junior. If it wasn’t against the rules, Draisaitl would have went to the AHL last year. I think the two are similar in the way that they were able to control the game at a slower pace but in the NHL that isn’t possible, there is a huge adjustment there, add in smaller ice that screws with your reads and living in a hotel at age 19, and that is a huge adjustment. Like Draisaitl, a solid off season of training will put him in a much better position to succeed next year. I would love to see him and Drai train together in the offseason

      • Sir Dudeinstein

        Another Yakupov? Common, they sent Puljujarvi down at lease not keep him up, send him on a 3rd/4th line expecting a 40 goal year. He was never been a true shooter like Laine but he does have the size that Yakupov did not have. Puljuarvi still getting used to the language and North American ice size/speed that you can say Yakupov did play Juniors here.
        Puljujarvi is showing some improvement in the AHL where you do not have how many writers and armchair GM criticizing every aspect of his game.
        Now Puljujarvi potential and game I am looking forward to. Giving him a top 6 role will elevate his game, he isnt a 3rd line player who plays 10-12 minutes a game and play a checking role.
        I mean can I be one who ask the question. Where has Eberle been? I see people “disappointed” in Lucic but Lucic has more goals than Eberle. Eberle suppose to be that sniper/shooter and yet, I think he waits till he hears someone from the crowd yell “SHOOT!” or maybe hes waiting for his typical late season golf quiet moment to shoot. Thats the true disappointment on this team. If you want to say “wait for playoffs for Eberle” just remind yourself. Hopkins has more goals than Eberle.

        • Hemmercules

          The only thing I’m comparing between Yak and Jesse is the crazy expectations. Yak was going to be the next elite Oilers forward. Someone commented above that Jesse will be on par with a 6 million dollar player as early as next season and an NHL stud at the same time. Where are you guys getting this?? I see him more as a “maybe” for the NHL roster next season. He has the tools, so do a lot of guys that never become more than a 3rd line NHL player. I really hope he blows away the pre season comp next year and makes the team on his way to a amazing NHL career.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            We expected yakupov to be a 40-50 goal scorer but when yakupov lead the oilers in goals scored (2012-2013) they started him on the 3rd line the following year expecting him to learn defense. That is where I see the Oilers failed the last few years, they try to morph and change players to what they see fit. Yakupov never had the size to be a checking winger, he didnt have the skills to be a power forward, he liked to shoot and being told “learn defense and learn to check” wasnt his style.
            I think when you draft a player, play him to his strength and if he isnt what you thought he was, send him to the minors so he isnt being pressured and criticize on his play. We dont have the best fans here, sorry everyone, but when you have a player like schultz who was over played and not learn the professional hockey world gets his confidence destroyed and now doing well in pittsburg. It isnt just Schultz, I mean cagullia is another.

            Oilers are afraid to send down players to the AHL because someone may get hurt feelings.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Pffft, the way Tkachuk plays, with his slew footing, boarding, and elbows, It would not be a surprise if his career ends before he is 20 yrs old. So glad we got Puljujarvi this kid will be a class act

  • SwedishOiler

    Very good analyzes. I’m sure Jesse will be fine, and turn into a great player sooner or later. He has some wonderful tools, and it seems like he has a big heart and good attitude as well. We should definitely not judge him on his first time in the NHL, but rather give him some time and trust that he will find his way. Still very grateful that he fell to us.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Anyone that was expecting JP to produce material offence at the NHL level this season had, in my opinion, unreasonable expectations. There was a blog, on this site, prior to the season analyzing similar draft picks coming from the Finish league. A reasonable expectation for his production was around 25 points and, I believe, he was on pace for that with inconsistent line-mates and ice time.

    He’s performing in the AHL around reasonable expectations. Not quite at Ratanen levels but not far behind.

    He’s getting some great development time and playing a major role in a playoff push while continuing to get acclimated to North America.

    While I don’t think he’ll ever produce top level offence (unless he gets a McDavid push, which he might), this kid is going to be a very good NHL player – we just need to take our time with him.

    He should NOT be pencilled in to the 1RW/2RW slot next year prior to camp – he can fight to make the team and earn a top 6 role next year but its not a given.

    Go JP!

    • toprightcorner

      If JP becomes a consistent 20-25 goal player, that is a successful top 6 player in the NHL today. 20 goals and 50 pts would have him 3rd in team scoring, expecting more is unrealistic, producing more is possible.

  • ScottV

    I think he will be just fine with a little more comfort level in place, like with language, home, smaller ice, style of play etc.
    I like his reputation for two way play, his skill set and size. Protecting the puck is part of learning to use his size to max advantage, which is a key. European ice does not warrant this need – anywhere to the same extent as NHL ice. I’m sure that the prospects of another year in Bakersfield – will get his @ss in gear in the off season, to address the areas needed to get him comfortable and well prepared for next years Oiler roster.

  • Randaman

    Let him complete the season in Bakersfield. Let him get the basics in line, skating, shot, positioning, etc. When he comes in next year, plant him beside #97 and let them run. He’ll be just fine.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    A great prospect with a bright future. I take nothing away from Tkachuk he has been really good for the Flames but some players especially players not familiar with the language or North American culture need more time to adjust.

  • Bubba Train

    Great write up and nice to see fans in agreement.

    JP disadvantages have all been off ice. Culture, language, maturity..etc.

    His hockey will come along as he adjusts and grows older. Look forward to it.

    • Dirtbag Daddy

      If Chiarelli trades the veterans in the minors it will force Fleming to start developing the prospects by giving them power play, penalty killing, Line 1 and 2 minutes. They can actually see greater strides in the development in roles other than checking and banging.

  • Oda Phi

    You never knew until after it happens. JP has a lot of great tools, at the WJC he played great with Aho and Laine. Third wheel? I don’t think so. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Olli Juolevi are both in junior and not exactly killing it Ethen Bear style but they are still great prospects. At the worst I see Jesse Puljujarvi as an Olli Jokinen type player (may be leaning that way because of genetical similarities, cousin or something), personally I see bright days ahead with that big joker smile.

  • TKB2677

    I heard an interesting point brought up by Woodguy on Lowetides show. Making the jump as an 18 yr old is huge. Making the jump as an 18 yr old European kid who doesn’t speak the language and has never played NA hockey would be even bigger. He was in the Pro’s in Finland probably making a good wage given his high profile status. He could have easily stayed over in Finland, played another year in a place he is comfortable in and made good money playing in a good league. For the Oilers, I am sure they wanted to get him over to NA as fast as they could so he could start learning English in and English environment and start learning to play pro NA hockey. But to get JP to come over, you have to make it worth his while. For an 18 yr old to move from home just to go a couple of hours away for college is a big deal, try moving across the world and not speak the language.

    I think we all agree that JP probably would have been best served to start in Bakerfield. But as Woodguy put it, I wonder if part of getting him to come over was the Oilers had to guarantee JP a certain number of NHL cheques to make it worth his while. I looked up on capfriendly his minor league salary. He makes 70K in the minors. If I am 18 yrs old, the youngest guy in the league and I have the option to move all way across the world where I don’t speak a lick of English to go play in the minors for 70k vs staying in Finland where I am comfortable, play pro hockey where I can still develop my game to some degree while making probably 2 or 3 times as much money, I know what I would choose. I stay in Finland another year and go take an English class all day long. I am not sure what team he played for in Finland and where he is from but he might have been living at home for all I know.

    We can all grip about it but like it or not, hockey is a business. So I wonder if the deciding factor was getting a certain amount of NHL paychecks to make up the difference in salary and that is why they kept him up as long as they did. For the Oilers, you get the chance to work with him one on one, he gets his feet wet in the NHL and who knows, maybe he just surprises everyone. But regardless, he’s here in NA right away starting his development. To put into perspective. Unless you completely hate your job to no end, most of us aren’t leaving the town or city we are comfortable living in and uproot our lives to move away to go take another job for a pay cut. So why should JP be any different. If you are an older player wanting to come over to try and prove yourself and are willing to take less to earn a job for a year that’s one thing. JP is an 18 yr old, highly touted, high in demand prospect. Big difference.

  • Sammy p

    JP will be just fine he’s in the right place doing the right things,it’s some of the Oiler Fans that I wonder about,they criticize if players are brought up too soon,they criticize if players like Yakipov don’t get sent down to a level where they can learn the pro game.
    Just what does it take to satisfy these wannabe fan managers?

  • toprightcorner

    I find it shocking to here that JP was living out of a hotel here in Edmonton. Every rookie should be living with a veteran for their first year in the league. He should have been living with Letestu or similar, that reduces the pressure of feeding and doing so much alone. I still think it was a big mistake that Hall and Eberle lived together on their own during their rookie year. These kids have no clue how to live on their own and to expect that while doing such a stressful job at 18 years old is dumb.

  • geoilersgist

    THANKS FOR ADDING IN THE ABILITY TO JUST JUMP TO THE COMMENTS!!!!! I also noticed the order of comments has changed. The improvements are much appreciated.

  • Chipper

    JP could have prepared himself better. It was known that his english was very poor, yet he showed up in Edmonton still struggling with the language. Patrik Laine arrived in Winnipeg and has had none of the issues plaguing JP. Neither played or lived in North America prior to this year.

  • OilCan2

    Dubois was picked to go back to junior because of Cap Hell. Tkachuk is a sleazy, dirty player and now will go down as a repeat offender following his two game suspension.

    JP may be our last call up for the playoffs. That would be fun. I think he is tracking well.

  • Mitch92

    I love Jesse Puljujarvi for his youthful energy and exuberance. I hope they don’t beat all of that out of him. After following him for the last couple of seasons I see a player who plays up to the level of his linemates. The better the linemates the more productive he becomes. He was great playing with Aho and Laine at the World Juniors. I thought he was great when he was playing with CMD as well. One of their last games playing together he notched three assists although only two of them were credited to him. I envision him playing with Connor for years to come as part of the most dynamic line in the NHL. No pressure, I know but he has the tools and the opportunity is there.