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.