If we assume Leon Draisaitl plays about half of his games at right wing this coming season, that means there are 287 “man games” to distribute among the other starboard wingers in the coming year. The battle ahead will be a year-long process and by spring we should have a very good idea about Edmonton’s future at the position.
It is my belief that Peter Chiarelli will want to give Jesse Puljujarvi a full chance to win a starting job on the second line. When the general manager traded Jordan Eberle, it’s likely there were three objectives:
- Cap relief/increase options
- Change out a smaller skill player for a bigger winger (Bruinization continuing)
- Make room for a young player/less expensive option
The options to replace Eberle at RW include Ryan Strome, although he may end up centering a line on his own. Anton Slepyshev showed very well late in the season and playoffs, Drake Caggiula had chemistry with Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian posted some impressive offense for a guy who had so many goals called back. There’s also Jussi Jokinen and 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto.
In my opinion, it comes down to Jesse Puljujarvi. He started well a year ago, but the coach watched him miss some golden chances and (I believe) reacted by squeezed his playing time. Puljujarvi lost his confidence, eventually spending the heart of the season in Bakersfield with the Condors.
You can’t blame the player (he is 18) and you can’t blame the coach (his job is on the line 82 games a year in the toughest league on planet earth).
DRAFT +1: JESSE PULJUJARVI COMPARABLES
- I chose these three players as a comparable to Jesse Puljujarvi, you may feel there are more appropriate comps.
- JP’s draft year is closest (in my opninion) to Mikko Rantanen, these are absolutely two seasons that could have come from the same player.
- JP’s draft +1 season is (in my opinion) ‘in the range’ with Nylander and Rantanen. Your mileage may vary, Rantanen played more of a feature role for San Antonio.
- David Pastrnak had separated by draft +1, I don’t think that is in doubt.
Based on all of this information, I think Jesse Puljujarvi will play the entire season in Edmonton, scoring about .45 points-per-game. That’s my estimate for this player, and should put him in a second/third line role.
The one thing that could get in the way? At some point in the year, Puljujarvi is going to struggle, perhaps getting playing time squeezed by Todd McLellan. The player is a year older, a year more mature, and we can reasonably expect him to react more positively and eventually win that playing time back.
We should not expect 30 goals this coming season, or even 20. David Pastrnak scored 15 NHL goals in his draft +2 season, and I think that total is somewhat in the range of reasonable for Jesse Puljujarvi.