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Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Will Puljujarvi break out?

The Oilers have a nice group of young players who will be looking to crack the team and make an impact this fall. Kailer Yamamoto, Evan Bouchard, Ethan Bear, and even Cooper Marody will all be given honest looks at training camp but none face the pressure that Jesse Puljujarvi does.

Last year, the term “bust” was being whispered around Oilersnation which wasn’t fair to Puljujarvi. Yes, he was a fourth overall pick, but he was young for his draft class. For a player is just 19-years-old, I think the numbers he posted were pretty respectable.

Don’t get me wrong, 12 goals and 8 assists in 65 games is by no means outstanding but I like his 1.18 primary points/60. That put him 6th amongst regular Oilers forwards and 187th amongst NHL forwards who played at least 600 minutes.

To call him a bust after a season where he produced a reasonable amount of offence, just doesn’t make any sense.

With all being said, Puljujarvi needs to raise his game to another level this year if the Oilers want to compete. They don’t have very many skilled wingers on the roster and a breakout season from the young Finn could fill a massive hole in their roster.

In my “High/Low” series, I set his ceiling at 30 goals for this next season. That’s obviously incredibly generous, and realistically I think a good target for him would be somewhere in the 20-25 goal range.

Here’s how I think that could happen:

LINEMATES

Mar 29, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Strome (18) warms up against the Vancouver Canucks Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Puljujarvi ended the season on Ryan Strome’s line and looked pretty comfortable there. He spent 238 minutes at even strength with Strome and in that time they produced 105 scoring chances with 41 of them being considered “High-Danger”. That resulted in 10 goals while the two were on the ice.

Puljujarvi also spent 258 minutes with Connor McDavid, and the numbers they posted were noticeably better. In that time span, the Oilers had 170 scoring chances and 80 of those were “High-Danger”. It resulted in 13 goals.

The numbers look good for the two and it’s worth noting that almost all of McDavid’s shot/possession percentages are better WITH Puljujarvi than WITHOUT.

Still, when I compare Puljujarvi’s play when with both of those centres, I always felt he was more comfortable with Strome. Part of it was because he got significantly weaker matchups and part of it was because he could have the puck on his stick more often, which he likes to do.

He also spent 103 minutes with Leon Draisaitl, who I think could be the best long-term fit for him, but the two didn’t show too well in their brief time together. Where almost all of McDavid’s numbers got better, those same numbers almost all got worse when Draisaitl was paired up with Puljujarvi.

If Jesse is going to score 20-25 goals this year, he’ll have to stick on one of the team’s top two lines and for that to happen I think he needs to change his game a little. He needs to be better at putting himself in a position to shoot the puck and finishing chances when he gets them. He also needs to be just a little more willing to go to the net and look for a greasy goal.

His game has to mature a little, and in his 20-year-old season, there’s a good chance it does.

SHOOTING THE PUCK

Last year, he scored 10 goals at even strength with a shooting percentage of just 7.94%. He also had 119 scoring chances, 50 of which were high danger.

Anyone who’s spent the last few years watching him play can see the potential in his shot. It’s just a matter of him reigning in it a little. His low shooting percentage isn’t only a measure of poor luck, it tells us a little about the quality of his shot as well.

Not only would an improved shot help with his 5v5 game, but it could lead to more opportunities on the powerplay.

THE POWER PLAY

Last season, there were nine Oilers forwards who got more powerplay time than Puljujarvi. NINE! This is the part where I saw the Oilers coaching staff needs to help out a little. I don’t buy the “make him earn it” explanation one bit.

He’s a young, offensively gifted player who needs to be put in good positions and giving him reps on the powerplay is extremely important.

A mix of Puljujarvi coming into camp a more mature player, with a better shot and the coaching staff feeding him opportunities could lead to a breakout year, which is no doubt something the Oilers will need if they want to return to playoff contention.

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  • Spydyr

    I think it will have a lot to do with how the coach handles him. Does he give him every chance to succeed or does he play him with plumbers. I’m a fan of give the kid a chance to prove what he was.

    • bcoil

      Are you ok with giving him lots of chances up the line up even if it costs us games? I think he should be slow played at the level he is capable of handling he is only 19. Let him develop at HIS pace not ours.

  • OriginalPouzar

    This century is riddled with examples of high-drafted and high-end players drafted out of Europe that established themselves in the NHL in their draft plus 3 season – recent examples include David Pastrnak, Mikko Rattanan and William Nylander, each of whom spent parts of their draft plus 2 seasons in the AHL, just like Jessie.

    Puljujarvi was a teenager the last time he played an NHL game and was eligible to play in the World Junior Championships earlier this year – lets think about that for a second.

    This is a substantial player that is developing.

    I look for him to take a substantial step this year and the answer to the question for me is a “yes”.

  • SLURVE

    As first glance of the title, I thought the article was referring to Puljujarvi is having a bad rash or hives. However, it meant for his season to be successful. I believe Puljujarvi will have a better season than ever. He is very young and developing. I have been following hockey for many years and I have noticed the fans and media even sport experts having such short patience and unfair expectations with a young athlete developing years. It is not exponential. The first two or three years are 95% development, learning, adapting and transitioning unless you are the top 5% elite players who adapt quickly. Give these guys a break, Puljujarvi will developed into one of the finest big winger the Oilers will love for many years to come.

  • GK1980

    I don’t care who breaks out but the oilers need either Yamamoto or Jesse to have a stellar year if they want to make the playoffs. Maybe Tobias or maybe, maybe Ratti surprise us all. I’m not that high on Ratti like some people, he didn’t impress me that much last season.

    • daryl

      If JP can push Rattie out at training camp I will show the Oilers are finally ready to challenge for the cup. There is also Yamamoto who could play with Leon and Reider. These two players will drive us to ths next level.

      • Moneyball

        It’s just as likely that Aberg pushed JP back to Bakersfield. The right wing could very well be Rattie, Rieder, Aberg, Kassian with JP being in bakersfield to be called up if there is an injury.

  • Bond 0097

    I’m pretty sure if given the right opportunity and support from the coaching staff he is going to SHINE. Will there still be up’s and down’s? Let’s ask Leon…..of course there will but these are young guys establishing themselves, we didn’t give up on Leon and he will be a beast this year, just as Jesse will become a sniper. Gotta love em both!!! It’s their time to shine…

    • Reg Dunlop

      I think watching Dobson excel while Bouchard struggles and avoids puck battles takes some of the Pulujarvi=bust momentum away. Unfortunately, momentum is neither created or destroyed. It just moves and in this case it will move to Bouchard=bust. Just wait and see. Oiler fans always eat their young.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Bouchard will be ok if he’s not rushed. He needs to work on his transitional skating. It was apparent at the summer showcase when forwards caught him flat footed. Don’t rush this kid.

  • Rama Lama

    Yes he will breakout if the coaches let him………TM did this player no favours and managed to coach the creativity out of him. With new coaches he may be given a chance………but the treatment he got last year stunted his growth.

    Playing on a regular line, in his natural position, should be a starting point. TM had him moving up and down the lines like a yo-yo……..if creating chemistry with you line mates is important…….then playing him on a regular shift is critical.

    TM obviously has no patience with young players……which is why he has never succeeded as a NHL coach.

    • daryl

      I agree Todd just seemed to bench JP when ever he could, he may have been the worst coach for a young team we could have hired. He likes his veterans way too much and we knew that about him when we hired him. Hopefully the old dog can learn new tricks. Thank god we changed the assistance out, really like this group.

  • OilCan2

    He improves McDavid’s numbers. That should get him an extended look on the top line and 1PP. The new PP coach should help too. I even like plan B with Strome and perhaps 2PP time.

  • With the way young players and rookies have been lighting it up soo quickly recently (McDavid, Matthews, Laine, Draisaitl, Dubois, Sergachev, Tkachuk, Keller, etc) expectations are getting higher and people get less patient with prospects. Everybody knew(or should’ve known) that he was going to be abit of a project from the second he was in pre-draft rankings, Laine scoring 36 goals fresh off the boat was the exception not norm for European prospects. Let’s wait abit here, weren’t we all calling to trade Draisaitl for a defensemen when he didn’t score 27pts in 46 games like Pastrnak did?

  • Moneyball

    ILooking back at PJ’s draft year there is not another player in the top ten That you wouldn’t trade pj for in a heartbeat and other players outside of the top 10like McCavoy that are much better hockey players.

    Oil juolvi Canucks pick is doing great in for the London knights and is projecting to beat good nhl dman
    Tkachuk calgary’s Pick is already twice the player puljujarvi is and likely will be.
    Clayton Keller for Arizona is great 23 goals 42 assists in his rookie season. Much more than Puljujarvi would see in 2 seasons for points.
    Alex nylander – Buffalo is comparable to puljujarvi but I would take him over ph just for his genetics.
    Mikhail Sergachev a stud dman who The oilers could desperately use or any team for that after.
    Tyson most – a good St.Albert kid I. Our own backyard who will easily surpass puljujarvi this year. Great hands, good hockey iq.

    Outside of the top 10 there are at least another 10players who would have been a better pick than puljujarvi. For fourth overall he is a draft bust.

    • daryl

      He is 20 years old and you are ready to dump him even though Todd never used him properly. Sorry but that’s just wrong! He is huge can really skate and has a great shot. I definitely wouldn’t take Tkachuk or Keller for him Tkachuk has reach is full potential and Keller was given way more opportunities and playing time than JP. JP is going to over come his language barrier and will become what we drafted him for a very good RW scoring machine.

      • HOCKEY83

        Agree Puljujarvi has not been given anywhere near the chance has he should have by now like most of his draft mates in the top 10 from his draft year. Moneyball’s comment is just silly. Puljujarvy whether or not he remains an Oiler through out his career will be very good in the NHL. Daryl to say Tkachuk has reached his full potential at just 20 years old is so hockey stupid. Even the fans with the lowest hockey IQ’s would know this not to be the case. Is that just a bitter Edmonton Oiler fan comment?

        • daryl

          OK may have over stated Tkachuk but do you really think he will score 30 goals a season just don’t see it. It could happen but his role is not simply goal scoring he is a sh#t disturber and a good one, so my bad.

      • Moneyball

        Puljujarvi is the same age as these kids and older than other draft picks that have surpassed him. If language was his issue he should have used $200 out of the millions the oilers paid him to download Rosetta Stone on his phone. I hope he does well too but he is not projecting to be much more than a third liner. There is a reason Columbus took a pass on him, nothing wrong oth that, it’s just that all top draft picks do not pan out. Some are yakupovs.

    • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

      “Oil juolvi Canucks pick is doing great in for the London knights and is projecting to beat good nhl dman”

      Olli Juolevi played last season in Finland. He also sucks and has fallen down to #5-6 on Canucks prospects list. He isnt even going to make the team this coming season since they have 8 dmen signed to oneway contracts. His picture is found under the definition of the word “Bust”.

  • Slipknot 8

    Sorry, I don’t see it.
    Jesse Puljujarvi equals Magnus Paajarvi they’re the same player.
    If I’m wrong I’ll gladly eat my word on this very blog, but I just don’t see the upswing.

  • Darylz Kat

    The “make him earn it” explanation is a bit off balance. Put the kid in a spot and watch him “earn it”. Hard for him to succeed with so little PP time. The kid is no dummy, a year older and more mature, more experience in NHL, and most of all, given some time and space on the PP je could defenitely score around 20 goals (fingers crossed).

  • Puljujarvi needed time in the minors, working on aspects of his game that would make him a solid NHL player. Instead the Oilers rushed him into the line-up, as they seem to do with too many of their high draft choices, and expected him to play at the NHL level. This has set him back. He has the skill but it may take longer to learn what is needed to play the NHL game, correct the bad habits he has not been given time to work on and recover his confidence that he needs to succeed on the Oilers. I hope he does before the fans, media and eventually the team gives up on him and trades him away.