Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Waiting on Jesse

Opportunity is as much about timing as anything else. That’s why sophomore forward Jesse Puljujarvi is going to be one of the more compelling stories for me when the Edmonton Oilers break training camp for the 2017-18 season. Simply put, I see far more opportunity for Puljujarvi this season than last.

Just as important, the timing is certainly better for Puljujarvi, who was selected fourth overall in the 2016 Entry Draft. He got into just 28 games with the Oilers before being sent to Bakersfield of the AHL with modest totals of 1-7-8 in his first crack at The Show as an 18-year-old. The big Finn responded with good, not great, numbers, with 12-16-28 in 39 games.

Was there opportunity on right wing for Puljujarvi a year ago? Sure. Had RW not been a somewhat shallow position for the Oilers a year ago he probably would have – and should have – started the season in the minors (he was the youngest player in the AHL) and then been given the call if he earned it. The benefit of hindsight tells us he wasn’t ready. No shocker there, given his age and the adjustment to culture and language.

A year later, and with Jordan Eberle out and Ryan Strome in, there is again room on the right side. With a year of pro experience in North America on his resume, I like Puljujarvi’s chances infinitely more this time around than I did last September. While the Oilers are fairly set on the left side with Patrick Maroon, Milan Lucic, Jussi Jokinen and likely Drake Caggiula, things are a little bit more up in the air on the right side with Strome, Anton Slepyshev, Zack Kassian and Puljujarvi in the mix.

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Dec 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) stands in between Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) and goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Oilers, 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a cliché, but patience is part of the process when you’re talking about the vast majority of 18-year-old prospects, even those selected as high in the draft as the six-foot-four, 205-pound Puljujarvi was. You need only look at how few kids break in and make a real ripple at 18. Not many manage it. And it’s not just patience from the organization. It has to come from within, too.

“I met with him a couple times this year and he was very frustrated with his game,” Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli said of Puljujarvi. “It’s a tough league the American League . . . he actually had a pretty good year. I think he had 12 goals, he could have had 20 goals. He missed a lot of goals.” Frustrated? Sure. What kid doesn’t want to fill the net and make an impression?

Of course Puljujarvi wanted to be better than a combined 13 goals in 67 NHL and AHL games. Scoring is fun and Puljujarvi’s had plenty of that on his way to the NHL. That’s said, there’s more to the pro game, and that’s what Chiarelli stressed – playing a solid defensive game, taking care of the puck, being smart. “I’m happy with his development, Chiarelli said. “He’s going to be an impact player. Every time he touches the puck in the American League, it pretty much turns into a scoring chance.”

None of us will know how far Puljujarvi has moved along the learning curve until the gate opens again, but he’ll be a year older and a year smarter when it does. He’ll also have an experienced countryman in the veteran Jokinen around to lean on and talk to as his sophomore season unfolds. The bottom line is the opportunity is there and the timing is better. I like his chances.

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  • You meet a lot of terrific people wandering around NHL rinks as I did for so many years, and I never knew a more decent and dignified man than Bryan Murray, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 74 after a three-year battle with cancer. Murray, who coached and managed in the NHL since 1981, most recently with the Ottawa Senators, will be missed by many, this old scribe included. Godspeed, Bryan.


  • OriginalPouzar

    It would be a material boost for this season if Puljijarvi took a nice turn up and provided real NHL minutes – 2nd/3rd line minutes.

    We see quite a few of these high-pedgiree European pro league professionals that come over, spend the better part of a year in the AHL and then are ready for a material impact in the NHL.

    I’m hoping JP is ready – if not, that’s OK, we can be patient and let him marinate a little more in the AHL. It will be interesting to see how he performs at camp and in the X-games.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Also, lets not forget that, last off-season, JP was coming off a fairly material knee injury and went in to the off-season needing to rehab.

    He’s had all summer to train without any need to rehab an injury – he’s just a teenager but here is hoping he’s had a proper off-season of training.

  • Big Nuggets

    I didnt see how he played in the AHL last season but the numbers don’t really jump off the page, especially considering his linemate Lander was over a point per game. Next year could be a different story but I am tempering expectations with Jesse P. He certainly wasn’t ready last year and I don’t want a roster spot given up for development.
    That being said there is a decent chance he comes out guns blazing to start the season.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I sure hope he is “gun’s a blazin…”
      One thing that’s not mentioned in the article that makes me a little apprehensive is that he got cut on the Finn team at a Tournament late last year. I don’t think he played a shift? Is he really ready for the NHL?

      • Svart kaffe

        He played eventually I seem to remember. The reason he got cut was the coach liked to use pairs, a Center and a Winger, and Puljujärvi was slated to be the third member of either the first or second pair of forwards. It didn’t work though and his style wasn’t suitable for third line duty. In the end they went for a familiar face that had history and chemistry for the first line.

    • OriginalPouzar

      He didn’t play his entire time with Lander – he started off with Currie as his center I believe. There was some Platzer in there as well I believe.

  • Spydyr

    Do what is best for his development. If he shows he is not ready in camp and pre-season send him down and pick up a veteran right winger to help out short term. Do not freak up yet another first round pick by rushing them.

  • Jagrbaum

    Anyone else feel like this is the longest offseason ever? I feel like a crack fiend hitting the refresh key for some Oilers news. Dear god please let it be October already.

  • ed from edmonton

    One of the keys for the Oil to build on last year’s success will be to have someone step up on the RW. Strome will need to show he can provide enough goals on McDs RW to keep LD as a center, thus having a 1,2 punch that can rival Crosby/Malkin. Either Sleppy or JP will need to show they can play NHL minutes, Sleppy had a promising playoff and has a leg up on JP at the moment,

  • Hockeyfan

    Another welfare pick who looks to be a slug. Thank goodness for that mcd welfare, eh coiler fanbois? Any other team with 10 years of league welfare would have won at least 2 cups in the past 5 years. I see regression galore coming to the soily coilers this coming season. Enjoy fanbois!

    • Rugbypig

      So . . . by your “interesting” math the Oilers would have been the beneficiaries of 7 seasons of McDavid by now.
      Interesting . . . . . . . . . Your inner Marty McFly is showing.
      Perhaps you should stick to colouring with crayons . . . . I’m sure with a little effort you will soon be able to “stay within the lines”.

    • McDavid's Comet

      Regression? LMAO! Typical and predictable wisdom from the fLamer dumb-a$$ known as “stickhandler”. It’s ironic that fLamers’ fanbois will get to enjoy the next 10 yrs. in the welfare line.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      You mean your #4 overall pick, Sam Bennett?

      It’s funny, during the darkest times of Oilers fans while we were at our worst what did you win during that time? That’s funny. I mean Anaheim and L.A. won Stanley Cups and San Jose was the class of the league during the regular season – and Vancouver went to the Finals during that time, but you guys did what exactly?

      You guys are the worst. Even your trolling. You come here to post, but once Oilersnation came back at you this year you guys whined and complained until you got everyone kicked off your site that put down your Flamers. You can’t even handle that. Typical Calgary fLames fan. You can dish it out but you can’t take it.