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Jesse Puljujärvi has been relegated to “extra attacker” on Team Finland’s roster

It hasn’t been the season that Jesse Puljujärvi was probably expecting.

Puljujärvi put up a historically-good 17 points in seven games on a Gold Medal winning Finnish squad at the 2016 World Juniors, and was subsequently taken fourth overall at the NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers. His teammate Patrik Laine had a seamless transition to the NHL, scoring 36 goals for the Winnipeg Jets, and is a finalist for this year’s Calder Trophy. But Puljujärvi didn’t have the same success.

He played 28 games with the Oilers after cracking the team out of camp, coming in an out of the lineup before finally being sent down to the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League in January. He found his footing in the AHL, a league seldom tackled by 18-year-olds, scoring 28 points in 39 games. After the Condors’ season ended, it was assumed Puljujärvi would join the Oilers for their playoff run, but he wasn’t called up to the team. Instead, he joined Finland’s World Hockey Championship roster in Paris, France.

That’s created a new issue for Puljujärvi, who doesn’t appear to be in Finland’s lineup heading into the tournament. Here’s an interview with Puljujärvi from Teemy Tammilehto, a writer for a Finnish sports website called Yle Urheilu.

Here’s the original article. This is an english translation.

PARIS. Jesse Puljujärvi is not a smiling young man in the adult world championships so far, with a wide smile coming from the pond to the far reaches of the arena. A 19-year-old winger is currently in the role of an extra attacker and is unlikely to be able to play in the opening match against Belarus on Friday.

Puljuarvi joined the World Championships well in advance of the competition and played a big role in a few preparatory matches. In Paris, however, his role has shrunk to a small extent when an extra attacker is not doing the exercises.

– I do not think there’s anything to do with that. At the end, there was little time left, but it was quite bad, Puljujärvi told Finnish media.

– He would like to play, a little disappointment this is. But not helping than practicing. I did a little bit with a physicist and fired the bike, he continued.

The NHL Club of Puljujärvi Edmonton Oilers has promised to play in the World Championships among the playoffs but has the right to call the player back on their ranks if necessary. The hero of the Toissatal Youth World Championships joined Finland himself with a “very good role” in his mind, but the reality was the other.

– Yes, I think there was a bit of talk that there would be some role in the fields. But coaches make their decision, there is nothing.

In some parts of the exercise, Puljujärvikki was able to get along, and yes, the trademark space flashed a few times. Support from teammates will help with disappointment.

– There are four games for six days, you might think that in one game you could play.

Head coach Lauri Marjamäki also made it almost certain that Puljujärvi will still be able to play during the tournament. However, he has not yet confirmed anything about stamping the games.

The translation is a little rough, but you get the gist of it. Puljujärvi came to the tournament expecting to play a big role on a pretty weak Finnish roster, one that only includes five other NHL players, but as of right now, he’s apparently on the outside looking in. Puljujärvi played in all three of Finland’s pre-tournament games in the Euro Hockey Tour but didn’t record a single point despite playing with Sebastian Aho and Valtteri Filppula.

According to some of the Finnish hockey fans on Reddit, Puljujärvi was poor in the three EHT games, and the team’s coach is likely looking to go with more experienced players. Though we don’t take this tournament seriously in North America, it’s a very big deal in Europe. Finland’s job is to win, rather than develop prospects. Hopefully Puljujärvi can get back into the lineup and play a big role on this team, because he badly needs something to go right for him this season.

Puljujärvi is certainly an excellent talent. He’s big, a good skater, works hard, and seems to have good vision and creativity with the puck. I mean, there’s a reason his World Junior performance was as good as it was. That said, it is somewhat curious that Jarmo Kekäläinen opted not to choose Puljujärvi with the third overall pick, going with Pierre-Luc Dubois instead. If it were any other general manager, I wouldn’t think anything of it. But Kekäläinen is Finnish, and there might be something he knew that nobody else did.

But look no further than Leon Draisaitl to see how quickly things can turn around for a prospect. Draisaitl made the Oilers as a rookie, struggled, went to the AHL, and has torn up the NHL since. Maybe Puljujärvi will do the same next season. We shall see.

  • Brewski88

    Could you imagine if we would have got laine instead? Pul did absolutely nothing to impress me this year (but I can say the same thing about drai his rookie season). I hope he figures it out.

  • RJ

    This is not a big deal.

    I called it last off-season. Let him play in the AHL for the season. Let him work on all the adjustments he needs to make. With the exception of McD, everyone struggles at 18.

    I said it last summer and I’ll say it again. In a few years, Chiarelli’s two best moves as an Oilers GM will be drafting McDavid and Puljujarvi.

      • Oilerchild77

        Well, those two found a role primarily because they’re willing to do what’s necessary to win games. Eberle is too terrified of the opponents on the ice to be of much use to his team. If he doesn’t find some courage and learn to put the team ahead of himself, he might not be in the NHL for as long as we all thought he would be.

        • The Dave

          It’s not fair to call Eberle terrified, I think he’s just a guy who doesn’t do well when he doesn’t have time and space. Unfortunately that’s what the playoffs are about. Even McDavid struggles to find open ice.

  • 4000miaway

    There’s Swedish versions of these Finnish articles as well and since I’m Swedish I translated some stuff. I’ll focus on the bits concerning Puljujärvi (JP):

    https://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2017/05/03/lejonlotsen-om-puljujarvis-petning-behover-garanterat-hela-arsenalen

    My summary: JP practiced as thirteenth forward on Wednesday. Veli-Matti Savinainen and Jani Lajunen from Tappara joined the team late and there was some tough decisions to make. Hence JP begin relegated to thirteenth forward. Head coach Lauri Marjamäki says he’ll see what happens during the games and changes might occur as the tournament goes on. He says it’s about finding the right balance and expects every player to play at some point.

    Regarding the lineup he (like McLellan) likes to use two forwards as a pair with a rotating third member. The pairs are Aho-Filppula, Rantanen-Pihlström, Pyörälä-Kemppainen and Osala-Hännikäinen. JP was supposed to play on the first line with Aho and Filppula but now they’re trying Miro Aaltonen. The head coach says they have thought a lot about whom the third player on the first line should be and Aaltonen and Aho has chemistry and history. They played together in Kärpät before they headed for the NHL and KHL respectively.

    My take is the coaches are still trying combinations and have chosen to go with a safe bet for their first line. For now.

  • rivid

    People keep wanting to compare this him with Dri, the problem with that are they 2 completely different players. Some players develop at different paces, but unfortunately some never get to that level. I am not writing this man off, just stating the obvious that all players develop at different rates. Hopefully he grows into the player the was drafted to be and does not become the next Yak.

  • oilerjed

    There was talk before the draft by insiders that the Finns were super hard on their players and that this probably played a large part of the Finnish GM not picking Puljujarvi and opting for a North American instead. More likely it was JP’s injury that scared away GM’s.

  • Nick Khron

    Wow, talk about writing off a player early by some of these fans. Imagine if he was in junior right now. I think he would be dominant. He’s in an incredibly rare situation as an 18 year old in the A playing against full grown men. Let’s just settle down and give him some time before we rush to judgement. Not everyone is going to come in like Laine. We won McDavid by jumping up from 4th, so let’s not get greedy and wonder what if about Laine.

  • TrueBlue

    People need to give him time. It’s been one year. I don’t think we will have a clear idea of what he is or could be for another 2-3 years. Hopefully we know sooner, but should not be in a hurry to rush him. For the first time in a decade we can actually take the time to properly develop players.