The Ottawa Senators have had one top five draft pick — Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001 — in the past 21 years, but that could change this year. They are currently 28th in the NHL, and have the fourth best odds to win one of the three draft lotteries. They are 5-7-1 in their last 13 games and with the Arizona Coyotes gaining six points on the Senators in the past month, there is a good chance Ottawa could finish the season in the bottom three and increase their odds of a high pick.
The Oilers have had seven top-four picks since 2010, and they, like every organization, will gladly accept winning one of the three lotteries. But the Oilers want to finish the season strong.
1. I’m intrigued by the two opposite opinions on Jesse Puljujarvi. I’ve received hundreds of texts to my show on Puljujarvi this year, arguably more than every player, except Milan Lucic. Most fans are in the same frustrated-with-Lucic camp, but the thoughts on Puljujarvi are very different. Many think the Oilers are punishing him, while others think he is a bust. Seriously. I enjoyed Dustin Nielson’s article on Puljujarvi earlier today. He brought up a valid point about his power play usage. If you want to state Puljujarvi should get a look on the league’s worst PP over the past 53 games, that is hard to argue, but I don’t buy any suggestion he is getting shafted at 5×5.
2. Puljujarvi is 19 years young. He has some areas to work and improve on, which is completely expected. He hasn’t gotten shafted at 5×5 nearly as bad as some suggest. He has played 694 5×5 minutes and he’s played 36% with Connor McDavid (249). He has played the most with Lucic, but his third to sixth most common linemates are Ryan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl. He isn’t getting short-changed.
3. He has had the most success playing with Strome. They have combined for 10 goals in 166 minutes, and only allowed five. Playing him with Strome means he doesn’t have to face the best defenders every shift like he would playing with McDavid. Playing with McDavid is fantastic, of course, but when I look at Puljujarvi’s overall game I see no reason to rush him there and have him struggle. The only forwards who have played more with McDavid than Puljujarvi are Lucic, Maroon and Draisaitl. Draisaitl was the right winger who bumped him out and I don’t think anyone can argue Draisaitl isn’t a better player today.
4. Puljujarvi hasn’t produced big numbers at 5×5. Courtesy of Corsica, Puljujarvi is currently ninth among Oilers forwards (I didn’t include Ty Rattie and Pontus Aberg, due to their lack of games in Edmonton) in points/60. Puljujarvi is at 1.45. He is a young kid finding his way in the toughest league in the world. For years Oilers fans have complained about them rushing players. Now they are not force feeding him minutes, which is better for his confidence and development, and some complain. I don’t understand it. If you think he should get a bit more time on the PP, sure, I can buy that, but any suggestion of him being punished at EV doesn’t jive when you look at his linemates.
5. As for him being a bust, good grief. He is 19 years young. He still isn’t close to filling out his massive 6’4″, 218 pound frame. He is still very young on and off the ice. Because he isn’t lighting it up right away like McDavid or other top picks means very little to me. Especially when you consider many of today’s great NHL players weren’t even in the NHL at 19 years of age.
6. Take a quick look at the top-ten scorers in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin, Claude Giroux, Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Ovechkin and Blake Wheeler weren’t in the NHL at 19 years old. Wheeler debuted at 22 and didn’t score 50 points until he was 25. Gaudreau entered the NHL at 21. Giroux split his 20-year-old season between the AHL (34 points in 33 games) and the NHL (27 points in 42 games) while Ovechkin, Malkin and Kucherov debuted at 20. Ovechkin and Malkin were great right away, but Kucherov had 9-9-18 in his rookie season before bursting out with 65 points when he was 21.
7. Coming over from Europe at 18 and 19 years young is extremely difficult. It is fantastic that Patrik Laine has been able to do it, but he’s the exception (and exceptional). I don’t expect Puljujarvi to ever be a dominant 100-point player, but any suggestion of him being a bust because he isn’t lighting up the NHL now is simply insane. And when you consider his massive frame, you can’t overlook the fact he isn’t strong enough to use his body effectively yet. There are many stages to developing and I think Puljujarvi is doing just fine. The best situation for him at 5×5 is playing softer minutes with Strome.
8. A few other names who took a few years to get going: Alexsander Barkov, second pick overall in 2013. He had 24 and 36 points his first two seasons at 18 and 19, then jumped up to 59.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, second and third overall picks in 1999, debuted in the NHL at 20. During their first four seasons, Daniel produced 34, 32, 31 and 54 points, while Henrik had 29, 36, 39 and 42. They were 25 years old when they exploded up to 70 points.
Mikko Koivu, sixth overall pick, had 21 points as a 22-year-old rookie. He scored 54 points when he was 23.
Tomas Vanek, fifth overall in 2003, debuted at 21 years of age and had 48 points. There are many examples of players not being productive until 22, 23 or later, especially Euros who had never played in North America before.
9. I’m not sure exactly how productive Puljujarvi can become. Once he is stronger and capable of using his big frame more to his advantage, I’m curious to see how he performs. He needs to move the puck quicker and see the play better, but that is something he can learn through video and experience. I have no concerns with Puljujarvi’s development at this point. It is fair to want him to get a bit more PP time, but whether he can consistently find openings and get off good shots remains to be seen. Other than the minor concern about PP time, I believe the Oilers have handled him quite well.
10. Some other recent picks to think about when looking at Puljujarvi.
Nino Niederreiter, fifth overall in 2010. He played nine games at 18 and went back to WHL. He played 55 games in the NHL at 19 and he had one goal and one point. That’s it. At 20 he played the entire year in the AHL and scored 28 goals and 50 points in 74 games. He was then traded to Minnesota and at 21 he had 36 points with the Wild, then he scored 24 goals and 37 points at 22 years of age. He had 20 goals the next year and had 24 goals and 57 points last season.
Mike Zibanejad, sixth overall in 2011. He played nine games at 18 and then returned to Sweden. At 19 he played 23 games in the AHL (4-7-11) and 42 in the NHL (7-13-20). When he was 20 he played 69 games for the Senators producing 16-17-33. The next season he scored 20 goals and 46 points and had 21 goals and 51 points at 22.
Keep in mind Leon Draisaitl only played 37 NHL games when he was 19, producing 2-7-9 before going back to the WHL. He picked up 51 points at 20 and had 77 last year.
A six-month off-season when you are 19 turning 20 can produce a lot of physical change. I don’t see Puljujarvi as a 70-point player right away, but don’t be surprised if he takes a good jump next year to 20 goals and 45 points. And he’ll still only be 20 years of age.
GAME NOTES BROUGHT TO YOU BY ATB FINANCIAL
Let’s show Vegas something they’ve never seen before—Alberta hockey fans.
Enter the Vegas Breakaway for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas and tickets to a Golden Knights game. Enter to win at atb.com/vegas
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Sekera most likely to be traded
- GDB 73.0: Searching for a RW
- Quick Hits: Oilers, Canes, Dubnyk, McDavid and more
- Monday Musings: Underdogs, Easy Fixes and a Terrible PP
- McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins creating chemistry
- Strome is a better fit at Centre than RNH
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 3/22/2018 – 11:30 am MST