The love affair for sports fans and players on their favourite team can be incredibly intense.
Deep down, most fans want the best for their team and players, but their expectations can lead to massive swings of happiness and frustration.
When a team is losing the frustration mounts, and it can blind even the sanest fan from seeing what a player does well, instead of focusing only on what they aren’t doing. The heightened emotion and passion will engulf every aspect of sport, from management, coaching, the players, fans and media.
The intensity makes sports great, but at times it can create unrealistic expectations and knee jerk reactions.
The Edmonton Oilers recalled right winger Jesse Puljujarvi today, and i think Oilersnation should listen to Guns N’ Roses 1989 smash hit Patience before watching him play.
Said woman take it slow, and it’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said sugar make it slow and we’ll come together fine
All we need is just a little patience (Patience)
Puljujarvi turned 19 on May 7th.
The only NHL players younger include Nico Hischier (18), Clayton Keller and Jesper Bratt (19 in July), Sergei Sergachev, Luc Dubois and Victor Mete (19 in June) and Samuel Girard (19 on May 12th). Bratt is the only one who wasn’t playing hockey in North America prior to being drafted.
Puljujarvi played 28 NHL games last year and scored 1-7-8 before being sent to Bakersfield, where he scored 12-16-28 in 39 games. He didn’t dominate this preseason and began the season in Bakersfield, playing ten games and producing 1-4-5.
He hasn’t dominated offensively thus far, and because of his draft status, fourth overall in 2016, I’ve heard whispers from some fans that he’s a bust.
That is an extremely premature outlook.
Puljujarvi might never be a dominant scorer. In fact, the odds suggest he won’t be a point-a-game player, but because he hasn’t ripped up the NHL or AHL thus far, doesn’t mean he can’t in the future. I’d argue there is a very strong chance he’ll become a solid contributor, but it might not happen in his teens.
Many players never get comfortable in the NHL until they are 22, 23, 24 or in some cases even later, especially those who didn’t play in North America prior to being drafted.
Mikko Koivu was the sixth overall pick in 2001. He made his NHL debut four years later at 22 years of age. He scored 20 goals and 54 points when he was 23. He has become a very consistent performer for the Wild over the past decade.
Dating back to 2002, here are the other top-10 draft picks (forwards) who never played in North America before coming to the NHL.
Nikolai Zherdev was the fourth selection in 2003. He debuted in the NHL at 19 and scored 13-21-34 in 57 games. Then the lockout hit and he played another season in Russia. In 2005/2006, he had 27-27-54 in 73 NHL games. He had 61 points two years later and 58 the next year. However, he only played six seasons, scoring 261 points in 421 games. He was extremely talented but never seemed happy in North America.
Alex Oveckin and Evgeni Malkin were selected first and second overall in 2004. Both of them will be Hall of Famers when their careers are over. Elite players.
Rostislav Olesz was the seventh pick in 2004. He debuted in the NHL in 2005/2006 when he was 20 and scored 8-13-21 in 59 games. He ended up playing 365 games and scoring 134 points.
Nicklas Backstrom was the fourth overall choice in 2006 and has become one of the best passers in the NHL. He debuted in his 20-year-old season.
Nikita Filatov was the sixth selection in 2008. He played 53 games over parts of four seasons between Columbus and Ottawa. Filatov played eight games as an 18-year-old rookie and scored four goals, including a hat-trick. He produced 16 goals and 32 points in 39 AHL games. He didn’t like playing in the AHL, which is fine, but I’ve always wondered if he was emotionally mature enough to play in the NHL at 18. You wonder if he would have been better off playing another season in Russia before debuting in the NHL at 18. Some felt he simply didn’t have the drive to make it.
Mika Zibanejad was the ninth selection in 2009. He played nine games in the NHL at 18, but was returned to Sweden. At 19 he split time between the AHL and NHL. He scored 4-7-11 in 23 AHL games and 7-13-20 in 42 NHL games. When he was 20 he started the season in the AHL and produced 2-5-7 in six games before being recalled to Ottawa in late October. He tallied 16-17-33 in 69 NHL games. He had 20 goals and 46 points when he was 21, then 21 goals and 51 points the next season. Then he was traded to the New York Rangers. This year, at age 24, he has 18 points in the first 17 games.
Magnus Paajarvi was the 10th selection in 2009. He debuted with the Oilers at 19 and scored 15-19-34, but then split the next two seasons between the AHL and NHL. He has 45 goals and 96 points in 325 games and has become a solid bottom six forward in St.Louis. Oilers forward Zack Kassian has scored 45 goals and 100 points in 328 games. He was the 13th pick in 2009. It is interesting how the players are viewed differently despite putting up almost identical statistics and being selected three picks apart.
Mikael Granlund was the ninth selection in 2010. He debuted as a 20-year-old rookie in 2012, and like Puljujarvi he split his rookie season between the NHL and AHL. He scored 2-6-8 in 27 NHL games and 10-18-28 in the AHL. At 21 years young he played 63 NHL games, scoring 8-33-41. He had 8-31-39 the next year, before exploding last year at age 24, with 26 goals and 69 points.
Aleksander Barkov was the second pick in 2013. He debuted in the NHL at 18 and produced 8-16-24 in 54 games. He had 16 goals and 36 points the next season and when he was 20 he produced 28 goals and 59 points in 66 games. He’s a very good player for the Florida Panthers. He has 15 points in 14 games so far this season.
Elias Lindholm was the sixth selection in 2013. He started in the NHL at 19 and produced 9-12-21 in 58 games. He had 39 points when he was 20 and 21 and last season at 22 he produced 45 points in 72 games.
Valeri Nichushkin was the 10th pick in 2013. He had 14 goals and 34 points as an 18-year-old rookie, got injured in his second season and only played five games, then at 20, he scored 9-20-29 in 79 games. He didn’t sign a second contract with Dallas and has played the past two seasons in the KHL.
William Nylander was the eighth pick in 2014. At 18 he split his time between the AHL (32 points in 37 games) and Sweden (20 points in 21 games). His second year started in the AHL and he scored 45 points in 37 games. He made his NHL debut on February 29th and tallied 13 points in the final 22 games. Last year, at 20 years of age, he produced 22 goals and 61 points in 82 games.
Mikko Rantanen was the 10th pick in 2015. He debuted in the NHL at 19, played nine games and registered no points. He was sent down to the AHL where he scored 24 goals and 60 points in 52 games. Last season at 20 years of age he scored 20 goals and 38 points in 75 games for Colorado. This season he has 12 points in 14 games.
Patrik Laine was the second pick in 2016. He debuted in the NHL at 18 and had an outstanding rookie season, scoring 36 goals and 64 points.
The timeline for development varied, but only Laine and Barkov were regulars at 18, and many didn’t become impact players until they were 20 or older. The Oilers are looking for a right-winger who can score, but if Puljujarvi doesn’t light the lamp regularly right away, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
He’ll be fine, but you and the Oilers need to be patient
Bakersfield head coach Gerry Fleming has seen Puljujarvi more than anyone and he likes what he sees in the young Finn.
“The biggest thing for Jesse when he is playing well is he moving. He can really move for a big man, and I just don’t mean tall. He is thick. He works out all the time. He is strong and when he is moving well with the puck it has been men against boys,” Fleming said to me this morning.
“His biggest challenge is realizing that when he isn’t scoring, it is okay. He has always been a difference maker, and he will be, but not every shift, and he just has to learn that is okay. He just needs to understand mentally that he can help the team a lot, even when he isn’t scoring. He has gotten much better at that, but it is a challenge for him, like most young players. Unless you are Connor McDavid you likely aren’t going to dominate every game,” said Fleming.
Fleming has seen a big jump in Puljujarvi’s play in many areas of the ice. The game happens quicker on the smaller ice and Fleming feels that is no longer an issue.
Lastly, I asked him if Puljujarvi is ready to adapt to the pace of the NHL.
“I think he will be fine. Much of that comes through osmosis by just practicing and playing with those guys. He has the speed to play in the NHL. He is strong enough. He knows where he should be (away from the puck), but he wants to go all the time. He, like every young player, just needs to realize you have to make the small, simple plays consistently. Consistency is the key to staying in the NHL. He will learn that, but he has the skill and size. He wants to be an impact player,” said Fleming.