Jesse Puljujarvi is going to be playing some high-stakes hockey in April, but so far at least it won’t be for the Edmonton Oilers. The team announced Wednesday morning that the young right wing was being loaned to Finland’s national team for the World Championships.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 19, 2017
Judging by the official announcement, this is a pretty good example of the Oilers getting to have their cake and eat it, too. Because Puljujarvi may be recalled at any time, the Oilers are not locked-in to playing without him in the postseason.
Right now Edmonton has a wealth of depth options up front, with Anton Slepyshev, Iiro Pakarinen, Matt Hendricks, Jujhar Khaira and Anton Lander all vying for a single rotating forward spot. Even if the coaching staff sours on David Desharnais or Benoit Pouliot or someone else, there are plenty of candidates for the available work.
There’s an argument to be made that Puljujarvi deserves a shot ahead of some of those players, but Todd McLellan is the man making that call and in the first half of the season it became apparent that Puljujarvi did not have his confidence. It seems unlikely that the rookie would be his first choice in a playoff situation, which would mean a long stint in the press box.
Still, it’s nice to have the option. Puljujarvi has a wealth of raw physical talent and shows signs of being a strong possession player. Injuries happen in hockey and over a long playoff run he might very well be needed.
This way, the Oilers retain that ability. More than that, they keep Puljujarvi playing, rather than watching, hockey. Not only are the World Championships are a big deal, especially in Europe, but the level of competition is high and teams are playing elimination games. Finland typically puts together a strong team; last year they lost the gold medal game to Canada, with Connor McDavid scoring the winner. It’s a good way for a young player to end his year, provided that playoff hockey isn’t an option.
And this way, if the Oilers do need to call on Puljujarvi at some point, they won’t need to worry about him trying to amp up his game to playoff intensity on a few minutes a night. He’ll already be playing top-flight hockey.