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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Jesse Puljujarvi

Jesse Puljujarvi is an extremely controversial player among Oilers followers.

Opinions on the young Finn range from he should be on McDavid’s wing to he looks lost and needs to be in the AHL all the way to he should probably be traded for a defenceman. Now in the third year of his NHL career, I think one thing that we can all agree on is that Puljujarvi isn’t where anybody expected him to be after being selected fourth overall in the 2016 draft.

There’s no doubt that the Oilers haven’t done an admirable job in developing the Finn. He fell on their laps at fourth overall in 2016 when Finnish general manager Jarmo Kekalainen curiously passed up on him at third overall to select Pierre-Luc Dubois. He produced an insanely-good 17 points in seven games for a gold medal-winning Finland squad at the World Juniors and, at one point, was right up there in the discussion for the first overall pick with Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

Puljujarvi cracked the roster as an 18-year-old in 2016-17. He would play 28 games with the team before being sent to the AHL for the rest of the year. Last season, Puljujarvi started the season in the AHL while Kailer Yamamoto was given his nine-game cup of coffee in the NHL. After Yamamoto was returned to the WHL, Puljujarvi came back up and put up 12 goals and 20 points in 65 games. That’s good for a 15-goal pace over an 82-game season, which is pretty solid for a 19-year-old who saw little power play time.

This year, Puljujarvi absolutely killed it in the pre-season. He looked fast, strong, and confident, and was pegged as one of the league’s top breakout candidates. But, at this stage, Puljujarvi is struggling to find a role at the NHL level. Through seven games in his third NHL season, the winger has just one goal and a -4 rating. Also, Todd McLellan doesn’t seem to trust using Puljujarvi in key parts of the game. He’s averaging just 12:28 minutes per game, and, last game against Pittsburgh, lost his spot on Leon Draisaitl’s wing in favour of journeyman Alex Chiasson.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter what the Oilers have done to develop this player. Maybe he needed a year in Europe after his draft year and a full year in the AHL after that. Who knows. All that matters now is how they handle him moving forward.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How do you handle Puljujarvi? Does he belong in the NHL or the AHL? If he’s playing on the Oilers, where in the lineup does he fit? Should he simply be spoonfed top-six minutes because of his draft pedigree and natural talent? Or is he going to learn to be a complete player while playing in a bottom-six role?

Personally, I have a difficult time with how the team is handling Puljujarvi. While I do agree he shouldn’t simply just be thrown premium minutes because he was once the fourth-overall pick, there isn’t much to be gained having him play 10 minutes a game. I mean, last game against Pittsburgh, a fresh rookie from the AHL with hardly any reps of professional hockey experience earned more ice time than Puljujarvi did. I’m not sure how much there is to learn at the AHL level, but it can’t be much worse than sitting on the bench.

What say you, Nation?

  • TKB2677

    I am a fan of Puljujarvi and have big time hopes for him and not a big fan of a lot of what McLellan has done so I am not trying to come off as sticking up for McLellan at all. But Puljujarvi is flat out not ready. It’s so obvious. He’s got 100 NHL games and he still doesn’t know where to go. He’s got 100 games and he does things and makes mistakes that you would expect to see a raw rookie straight out of junior make. Mistakes happen and with younger guys, they happen more often but not like he does. When he is with Strome, its not as amplified because the competition he is up against is weaker but they are STILL there. With his combination of size, speed and skill, he should stand out against 3rd and 4th liners on a lot of nights and he doesn’t. He’s not ready for the NHL yet.

    He should be in the AHL for the whole season. I would sit him down and tell him how important he is to the organization, how he is going to be a big time part of the future of the Oilers, how they believe in him, what kind of player they believe he will be and that they are sending him down to play a crap load in every situation and how they expect him to be the guy down there. Then I call up Woodcroft and I tell him he is playing JP on the top line no matter what. He plays big minutes no matter what. He’s on the top PP no matter what. I would have him on the PK no matter what. If he makes errors that result in goals, you talk to him about it, then send him back out. It’s a development league. So develop him. If Woodcroft doesn’t do that, you tell him to polish up that resume because Puljujarvi and Bouchard should be the #1A & 1B for the Oilers prospects. If there is a language barrier at all, you hire a freaking interpreter and have him sit on the blood bench if you have too.

  • The kid clearly needs development and has been mishandled from the start. Had no business playing 39 games in his rookie year. Now his contract needs renewal and we still don’t know what we have.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I agree at this point the coaches should know what JP “needs” and have a plan. To my eyes, they have tried and it’s the player coming up flat. Consistently. Fans want to blame coaches, especially Oilers coaches, for “ruining” players. This is straight up BS the majority of the time. Look at Jesse play FFS… He hasn’t figured out how to consistently use his skills at the pro level yet (100 NHL games…). How are the coaches 100% responsible for that? Jesse is still making lazy plays, exhibiting poor decision making, and sheep-level confidence (just trying to survive/not stand out). Throw a body check, get involved, empty the gas tank EVERY SHIFT, skate full speed, stop and start/no more fly-bys… I know everyone sees the same thing I do. There is talent/skill there, but where is the “player” (as in the saying: “that kid’s a player”). Todd and his coaches cannot simply “give” the kid confidence, or “make” him develop consistency, or “use” him in a way that doesn’t match what he is bringing each game (which is nothing more than lackluster). JP should be WAY better than this with the tools he has. There is something missing mentally IMO. At this point JP should be taking a long hard look at himself in the mirror and putting in the work. I like JP’s potential, we all see it, but it’s on the player if he can’t even take the first step in realizing it.

  • kormega

    If Puljuarvi fails it would be the loudest bust after Daigle and Yakupov. It’s beyond me how coaching staff can’t develop him into a top-player with such an amazing talent like JP.

    Though Draisaitl and Nurse made huge steps forward under TMC coaching, so maybe the problem is in Jesse too. It’s always sad watching talents fall like this, and I’m afraid Puljuarvi will never become a player he should.

  • daryl

    You guys with these comments are nuts the kid is 20 years old playing under a coach that plays veterans over younger players he as’t developed any youngsters in all the time he has been coaching. Change the COACH.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      Yamamoto seems fine. Drai seems fine. Bouchard is holding his own. Can’t blame the coach for Jesse’s poor play. Can’t change the coach every time one young player isn’t meeting expectations.