WWYDW: Jesse Puljujarvi

The Oilers will play their second-last game of the season tomorrow against the Golden Knights. Jesse Puljujarvi and Jujhar Khaira are sliding into the top six as Leon Draisaitl’s wingers. It’s been an excellent season for Khaira, the third-round pick from 2012, but it’s been a somewhat disappointing season for Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick from 2016.

That, of course, comes down to expectations. Khaira was an off-the-board pick from the BCHL. Slowly but surely he developed in the minors, worked for ice time in the NHL, and figured out his niche. It seems at this point he has a long-term future with the club. Puljujarvi was slated to go third overall in 2016 behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine after a historically good World Junior showing with Finland as a 17-year-old. But when Jarmo Kekalainen, the Finnish GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, passed on Puljujarvi in favour of Pierre-Luc Dubios from the QMJHL, you couldn’t help but wonder what was up.

Puljujarvi came over to North America as an 18-year-old and immediately cracked the Oilers roster. He scored a goal in the team’s season opener and then didn’t score another one in his next 27 games before being sent down to AHL Bakersfield. He spent the rest of the season with the Condors putting up a very respectable 28 points in 39 games. He didn’t play in with the Oilers during the team’s playoff run. This year, Puljujarvi started the season in the AHL as 2017 first round pick Kailer Yamamoto was given a nine-game cup of coffee instead. Once Yamamoto was returned to the WHL, Puljujarvi came back up. He’s produced 20 points in 63 games. At times, he looks like a beast with a rare combination of size, speed, and skill who could score 30 goals, and at other times, he looks completely lost and overwhelmed.

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With top picks from 2016 Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine breaking into the league and looking like perennial all-stars, Matthew Tkachuk, who was chosen behind Puljujarvi, quickly carving out a role as a top-six scorer and agitator with the Flames, and now Dubois scoring 20 goals for the Blue Jackets, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed about Puljujarvi’s slow development. That said, he’s the same age right now as Leon Draisaitl was when he won Memorial Cup MVP in 2015.

Dec 16, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) scores in the third period against Minnesota Wild goalie Alex Stalock (32) at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Button came on Jason Gregor’s show on TSN 1260 last week and was very blunt in his criticism of the Oilers for the development of the big and skilled yet enigmatic Finn.

“I’ll be very straight forward on this… I thought it was ridiculous to have him over last year in the American Hockey League. I think it’s ridiculous to have him over now and not playing him… I don’t think the Edmonton Oilers have done a real good job of developing Jesse Puljujarvi, and when I watch him play… he looks like his physical strength isn’t quite there, he doesn’t always have his legs underneath him. He can’t assert like he wants to. But you see him at other times, you see the skill, you see the ability to drive and be determined. But when you don’t have confidence in your physical strength, you’re not going to go out there and assert all the time, because you can’t, and you know you can’t. And you’re playing against men and players who are strong and physically developed and mentally and emotionally developed.”

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Where does Puljujarvi fit with the Oilers long-term? You can’t go back and change the past at this point. Whether he should have stayed in Finland in 2016-17 or in the AHL this year and last doesn’t really matter now. What matters now is where he fits with the organization, whether that be as a trade chip, a short-term solution, or as a long-term project. If he is a long-term solution in the organization, how should the team ensure he reaches his potential?

He’s only 19-years-old, but, to me, it’s somewhat concerning that the team hasn’t really bothered trying to create chemistry with him and Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl down the stretch as Puljujarvi has spent a lot of his minutes playing on the third line. Rather than giving Puljujarvi these minutes with the team’s top centres, they’ve been feeding them to Ty Rattie and Pontus Aberg.

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The team has holes to fill this summer and they may or may not have time to wait and see if Puljujarvi can ever figure it out in North America, so he possibly could be used as a trade chip. But then again, one of the holes the Oilers have is a big, skilled winger who can put the puck in the net. Isn’t Puljujarvi exactly that?


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  • TruthHurts98

    What any of us do??? Get a real coaching staff that has a clue. And a GM that doesn’t sabotage this team and actually builds a good supporting cast around Connor. Until this happens nothing will change except more draft parties every year while we watch players traded out for pennies win Hart Trophies. Sigh. DOD 2.0

  • Heschultzhescores

    JP may be one of those guys who is physically gifted, but the mental game is missing and may not even be in there. Nice guy, but we know where that gets you. He’s really just Yakupov’s bigger tongued brother

    • Finnaggled

      Read his scouting reports, every one says “responsible player””thinks the game well”hockey smart” ect ect.
      His hockey iq isnt the issue, it just takes longer for big, power forwards to develop, as a rule.
      Everyone relax.

    • 3rdTierFan

      I see pretty much no similarities between Yakupov and Puljujarvi or their style of play. To be honest I really never saw what others did in Yakopov – I saw a guy that wanted to score but had no knack for getting open in scoring areas. He seemed to have no idea where to go on the ice to get in scoring areas and tried to blast perimeter one-timers or beat guys one on one. I feel like Puljujarvi is a much more complete player and has a much better idea where to go to get the puck in scoring areas. I feel like he is going to develop into at least a solid 2nd line winger who can score and play well defensively if he can just be given the opportunity and people can relax their expectations on him.

  • Hemmercules

    I’m guessing they plan on keeping him or they would probably be playing him top line with McD. They have Drai and McD for the next decade and control of JP for the next two years, plenty of time for him to build chemistry. He’s 20 and getting regular NHL time against lighter competition, I see no problem there. With the lack of solid NHL wingers on the team they can hardly afford to trade him anyway. I wasn’t a major fan of the pic at the time but Ive been told he will develop slower and be a solid NHL winger soon and for years to come, we’ll see. Its too bad they didn’t get an NHL ready guy like Tkachuk, the guy is a weasel but he plays hard and didn’t have the language barrier to deal with.

    • crabman

      Puljujarvi only has 1 more year of his ELC not 2. If he was sent down to the AHL after only 9 games last year his contract would have slid same as a player returning to junior. Based on usage last year that probably would have been best for player and team.
      That said I can’t imagine him commanding much in his next contract.
      This team is going to be in desperate need for cheap skilled wingers in the coming years and Puljujarvi could fit the bill. He has the tools but hasn’t shown he can put it together. Even though he has had time in the top 6, not a ton, he is still only scoring at a 26pts/82g pace this year. With Chiarelli trying to save his job I don’t think any futures are safe from the possibility of being traded for help today. If he could be traded for a legit top4 RD or Top6 winger in their prime with term left I would strongly consider it. There is a risk in trading or keeping him right now. His future is a complete unknown.

  • A-Mc

    I figure he’s being played on the 3rd line because he sees lesser competition. Our third line is centered by Ryan Strome, who has quite a bit of skill himself, so it’s not like JP is on a plug line.

    Going into next year, i think the Oilers need to grab 2x top 9 RWs and then i leave it up to JP to force his way into the lineup. If he can’t make the team nightly, he should be down in bakersfield IMO.

  • Woogie

    I seriously can’t believe the amount of press this is getting. He is only 19 years old and moved half way around the world to play hockey. He didn’t even know English when he first got here. Talk about culture shock. The plan should be the same as last year. Lets hope he puts in a full summer of training and see what happens in training camp. To trade him or give him the first line right wing spot would be a MASSIVE mistake. Steady as she goes and he will turn into a great player.

    • camdog

      They played him on first line, then 4th line and then finally the third line. I hope they don’t do what they did with the kid this season, yoyoing through the line up the way they did. Ideally he’d be scheduled to start the season on the third line with Strome and maybe move up in the order near Christmas if his game evolves.

    • Mitch9412

      Can I ask what other first round picks you’re illuding to?
      Hall (stud before he was dealt)
      Eberle (perennial 55-65 pt guy)
      Nuge (high value elite two way Center, with scoring winger capabilities)
      Yakupov (bust #1)
      Klefbom (arguably the oilers #1 dman if healthy)
      Nurse (oilers number 1 when Klefbom isn’t, and might even be better than Klefbom)
      Draisaitl (multi year 70+ pts)
      Puljujarvi (value pending)
      Yamamoto (value pending)
      Did I miss and first round busts??

  • Chris Prongers Rake

    The minute they trade him, they will want a big, strong, winger with the potential to score 20. Nuge and McDavid should be set, find Draisaitl a winger and play Jesse with Strome. Give him PK time and time on the 2nd PP, than see where he is next year at the end of his ELC, I predict he’ll score 20 next year.

  • TKB2677

    I said it in a different thread.

    Puljujarvi is 19 and turns 20 in May.
    Yamamoto is 19 and turns 20 in September.

    Just about every single media guy, Oilers blogger and fan all thought Yamamoto should 100% spend this whole season in junior. There were many of those same people who thought Yamamoto shouldn’t have even played the 9 games he did play. So what I don’t get is there is just over a 4 month age difference between the 2 players yet people think Puljujarvi should be in the top 6 playing 18 mins a night and Yamamoto should’t even be pro yet.

    Not excusing the mistakes that Chia and the coaching staff has made. But 4 months in age makes all the difference? How does that make any sense especially given the European game and the North American game are dramatically different.

  • MillHoodsHockey4Life

    I believe Tampa slow played Stamkos realizing his skill was ready but not physically ready for a full season and would purposefully sit him games to allow him time to train and build muscle throughout the season (feel free to correct me if I am mistaken). All young players should have a carefully considered development plan made for them after drafting and commit to it, regardless of their on ice achievements. There’s little evidence of planning or commitment but the Oilers.

    • crabman

      Stamkos played 79, 82, 82 and 82 games his 1st 4 seasons. the team never sat him to bring him along slowly.
      But in his rookie year he wasn’t their #1C or player. Lecavalier was the top center and gave Stamkos plenty of cover. Barry Melrose was the head coach and managed Stamkos’ minutes and tried to give him easier matchups. There was actually quite a bit in the press at one point about Stamkos being upset about being underused but I think in the long run not having to come into the league and being the go to guy was good for him. He still scored 23-23-46 in his rookie year and set the league on fire the next with 51-44-95. I would say the way Stamkos was handled worked out for both player and team.

      I agree that a development plan should be put in place but sometimes a change of plan needs to be made if a player is over or under performing what you originally thought the player would do. But to me it doesn’t look like the Oilers had a plan to start with for Puljujarvi or made any adjustments.

      • E-Mac

        That’s a fair point. I honestly think the domino that started all this was not getting Dougie Hamilton. We end up panic trading for Reinhart. And everything else is now history.

    • JimmyV1965

      One of the reasons they fired Melrose, there were many good ones, was his awful handling of Stamkos. As soon as Melroae was fired, Stamkos got more playing time and scored at nearly a 1 ppg pace.

  • tkfisher

    What scares me the thought of the Oilers turning Jesse into another MPS by pushing him into third lines roles and not letting him fully develop his talents and physical tools at the pace thats right for him. Management has been rushing and ruining prospects development since 07.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I said this two weeks ago when the topic was examined on this website and I’ll say it again: Jesse Puljujarvi is 19 years old. He’s a teenager.

    Can everyone just relax? Jesse’s on the big team. He’s getting ice-time. He’s being worked in slowly and not rushed. I have no concerns about his usage at this time. Nor do I particularly care what other kids in his draft class are doing with their lives or careers right now.

    Honestly – one of the most annoying things about our fandom is “prospect-envy.” No matter what, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Everyone’s doing better things with their draft picks/prospects/AHL teams/ECHL teams/pro-scouting/amateur scouting … et al. Then the local TSN radio affiliate brings on one of their analysts for the contractually-obligated weekly phone interview with the local afternoon drive-home sports show. Craig Button was purported to be an excellent NHL scout (but a middling GM), once-upon-a-time, so I don’t doubt that he can spot a blue-chip prospect from a poor one. But, to borrow from Nicholson in A Few Good Men … Button’s an educated man, but surely he can’t claim to know everything about every team’s handling of every one of its prospects, can he?

    To wit: “He looks like his physical strength isn’t quite there, he doesn’t always have his legs underneath him.”

    Umm, what? The Oilers’ website has Jujhar Khaira listed at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds and, we can all agree, he’s a beast. Guess what? Puljujarvi is the same height … but only three pounds lighter.

    Physical strength isn’t an issue. Confidence is and, to Button’s credit, he alludes to that. But it’s not like Puljujarvi’s been an emotional wreck, either. He’s got 20 points in 63 games. Heck, he’s got a shot at 15 goals. That’s pretty good for a 19-year-old.

    I think people like Button are trying to reheat an old dish. They want to recycle the Oilers-ruined-Nail-Yakupov story when, really, Yak was a nice kid with a blazing shot, decent speed and next-to-no hockey sense. No harm, no foul. Sometimes the #1’s don’t pan out. But Yak’s story will have nothing in common with Puljujarvi’s.

    I know that it’s not fashionable to say this right now, but I think the Oilers doing the right thing with Puljujarvi. They’re not rushing him. They’re attempting to teach him the NHL game, at pace. The Oilers were criticized, on this website and others, for throwing other players Puljujarvi’s age in the deep end at age 19. And, now that they’ve chosen a different, more patient route with Puljujarvi, they’re being criticized for that. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    I say this again … Jesse Puljujarvi is 19 years old.

    • crabman

      I’ve said this before Puljujarvi is being judged harshly, right or wrong, because of his size at draft time, the hype around him being a lottery pick, and the fact that he was reportedly NHL ready. The 1st half of his draft year there was a lot of debate about who should go #2 him or Laine. Both big, gifted wingers ready to jump into any teams top 6. That was what was being sold. Comparing him to his draft hype he has been a huge disappointment.
      But you are 100% correct he is only 19. He could be in junior today in a draft+2 year and helping a team win a memorial cup if he came over when he was a younger teenager and played junior. But he should/could have been in the AHL the last 2 years playing big minutes. Getting pp time and paying on the top line, adjusting to North America play and living in a development league. His contract would have slid as well so he wouldn’t be going into the last year of his ELC. I believe he has been miss handled by the team. But at least this year if he was going to be in the lineup I think 3rd line where he doesn’t need to face top competition is the right spot on an Oilers team.
      Next year I hope they bring in another top 6 winger to play with Draisaitl and if Puljujarvi breaks camp as a top6 rw option great if not more time on the 3rd line.

        • crabman

          @Leo Tard, the 1st half of the draft year Puljujarvi was rated above Laine by many scouts, not all but enough for it to be a debate. Everyone had Matthews as #1 the year before his draft year. As Laine’s year went on and he finished strong he passed Puljujarvi on everyone’s draft list and was closing on Matthews. But there was a point just 6 months out from the draft where it was basically a coin flip for #2 overall.

  • OilCan2

    Jesse will develop at his own pace. He will supply the motivation and effort to move it up a notch over the summer. Management will provide an exit interview and the carrot of the BIG CONTRACT in the future.

  • ed from edmonton

    So One might draw comparisons between JP and either LD or Yak. As a 19 year old LD was totally overwhelmed in the NHL for half a season and then dominated in Jr for a half. Even though his first 1/2 year in the NHL was brutal, now in retrospect its hard to say that it hurt his development as a hockey. I don’t think that JP’s performance is any worse than a 19 year old LD.

    Now Yak was a different story, after a very promising first 48 games in the NHL he has been in the dumpster ever since. One obvious difference between Yak and JP is that JP at least appears to be trying to adapt to the NHL game. Unlike Yak he hasn’t called in his agent when things aren’t going his way.
    Most likely JP will be something between LD and Yak. Trading JP would be a risky business as he could prove to be a top 6 forward yet, but then again he could be another Yak (but I rather doubt that). Stay the course and play next year in accordance with his performance, whatever that might be.

      • Sorensenator

        scouting reports and how he appears in an NHL game isn’t the same thing. Oiler fans are so deluded they think all their prospects are going to turn out to be an impact player. I guarantee I will be saying “I told you so” in 2 years.

  • crabman

    I think Puljujarvi is a tradable asset for the right price. It is risky either way right now. There is no way in knowing if he will find his way and be a dominant top 6 winger as his draft profile suggests or a draft bust or somewhere in between. If the team can get back a player in their prime with term left straight up for him that would be best for the team in the next couple of years. If he doesn’t develop the way we hope we would win that trade. If he blows up then we will be upset he was traded.
    Even at 19 and our need for cheap skilled singers I would consider trading him for the right after who can help us today.

    • Orm Nullman

      Kekalainen having traded his number one centre, Ryan Johansen, for a top pairing defenceman, Seth Jones, was in greater need of a centre than a right winger. So he picked Pierre-Luc Dubois and it appears to have worked out.

      • Leo Tard

        When the Oilers drafted him, I had very mixed feelings. I said to my buds that the Oilers may have just drafted another Pajarvi. I will be relieved if he can be better than that. As of right now, too hard to tell. Give it time peeps.

  • Oil9744

    Lots if questions when it comes to JP, but to me you play him with Mcdavid or Draisaital, if he makes some mistakes then so be it, but he has to much skill and upside to be playing with Lucic and Strome, and ffs put him on the half way on the power play for the one timer, they got him playing in the slot looking for rebounds, the kid has a bomb of a shot yet Woodcroft and Mclellan are to dumb to set it up

  • Arfguy

    Patience should be of embraced. Jesse has potential. A lot of potential, but rushing him will not yield results.

    The coaching staff needs to encourage him to shoot more. I’d rather him mature within the organization and become the player he is. If he turns into a goal-scoring machine, I want that to be with the Oilers. If he turns into a 3rd line winger who scores 10-15 goals every season, I’d rather him be that within the organization at a bargain contract. No more hasty moves, please.

  • Randaman

    I said this as soon as Columbus picked Dubois. Take Tkachuk! Don’t be fooled by the European hype. I have been proven correct. Can’t change my mind on this, ever!

    • E-Mac

      Agreed. Not sure why Chia didn’t draft Tkachuk. Unless it’s a bonafide stud there is always a risk in a European prospect. Tkachuk is exactly the player Chia drools over.

      Tkachuk had 107 points, won a Member Cup and is 6-2 200+ lbs. He plays the heavy game Chia talks about and has skill.

      June 24, 2016 – we draft Tkachuk (essentially get a young and cheap Milan Lucic with more skill)

      June 29, 2016 – we don’t need to trade Hall

      July 1, 2016 – we don’t need to sign over the hill Milan Lucic

      Hindsight is 20/20 but following this script seemed pretty straightforward.

      • crabman

        Drafting Tkachuk doesn’t solve the RD need that Hall was traded for. And at the time of the draft Puljujarvi was supposed to be 1 of the only 3 sure fire NHL ready players in the draft. Puljujarvi started his draft year as the number two ranked prospect and finished the year at number three. They still signed Lucic because they thought they still needed another top 6 winger even with a sure fire pick like Puljujarvi. The trade for Larsson would still have happened and so would the Lucic signing. With all the information we have now I’m sure things would happen differently if we could go back and change things.
        But the Puljujarvi pick wasn’t the domino that started that chain reaction.

  • RJ

    If you look at the Oilers from a P/60 perspective, the top players are McDavid, Drai, Nuge and Puljujarvi.

    Puljujarvi is the only Oilers winger producing at a top-6 rate. So of course McLellan plays him in the bottom 6.

    Produce at a top-6 rate, play him in the top-6. Pretty simple stuff other than the fact that McLellan sucks re: usage.

    • crabman

      I have Puljujarvi at 1.42pt/60 total and 1.36/60 at 5×5. That puts him at 8th out of all forwards currently on the Oilers and played over 40 games.

      5×5 p/60 total p/60
      McDavid 3.47 3.58
      Draisaitl 2.80 2.78
      Nuge 2.35 2.49
      Cammalleri 1.93 1.81
      Strome 1.56 1.62
      Khaira 1.50 1.48
      Lucic 1.46 1.59
      Puljujarvi 1.36 1.42
      Kassian 1.33 1.36
      Slepyshev 1.29 1.27
      Caggiula 1.17 1.30

  • Anton CP

    Somehow that I get the feeling his was purposely sabotaged so his entry will expire sooner and he will be forced to sign a extension with less money. If that is not the case then TMac and Chiarelli have done a terrible job of developing him.