Yamamoto vs Puljujarvi

The Oilers are pushing through their October schedule better than I think every single person here in Oilersnation expected. This is easily better than anything I ever hoped for. What’s nice, to me, is that this isn’t a case of everything going right for the team. When we look at the situation on the right side of the ice, there is a lot left to be desired. Edmonton could (and should) improve. All eyes are on the Oilers as they handle the two young kids who are supposed to be the future of this position for the team.

There are a number of Oilers presently occupying spots on the right-wing positions. They are: Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, Drake Caggiula, Zach Kassian, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Ty Rattie. The first four appear to be regulars right now, the last two are sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch and on the IR respectively. This group, which many had concerns about before the season, has really not accomplished much, save for perhaps Chiasson (who has scored some spectacular goals in limited minutes). The rest? Really not a lot to show.

As far as comparing players goes, I think it would be interesting to look at two players who have gone in polar opposite directions since the season began. Yamamoto has been locked into Edmonton’s top 6 from day one and climbed his way to McDavid’s wing. Puljujarvi started on the third and pushed higher briefly before finding himself a healthy scratch for what will now be four straight games.


Sep 23, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his first period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Kailer Yamamoto is receiving heaping amounts of praise these days for his incredible tenacity, checking, and effectiveness on the top line. He’s plenty tenacious, but the rest of the accolades seem out of touch with reality for Yamamoto. He was a part of the 2nd line to start the season, but that grouping with Draisaitl was extremely ineffective and eventually broken up. An injury to Rattie opened up the top spot for him and he’s made his way there, garnering these rave reviews. Some have even suggested that when Rattie returns, Yamamoto should stay paired with McDavid because it has gone so well.

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One day, someone will write a tell all book about the behind the scenes world of an Edmonton sports journalist and perhaps I will finally be able to understand the way some of these guys think, but for now all I have is speculation. Here’s what I think. I think Kailer Yamamoto is a little guy who goes to the tough areas and draws penalties because of the abuse he takes. I think his feet move twice as fast as giant players who take long strides and that effort deserves praise but also stands out more than it does for an average sized man doing the same thing. And I think Kailer Yamamoto has not done anything with McDavid to suggest he should be there full-time.

The cold hard fact is that through 10 games, Yamamoto has fewer points than he did after 9 games a season ago. Yamamoto has one 5v5 point, a goal, and one assist on the power play. He’s been playing more than 14 minutes a night in Edmonton’s top 6 and a staple on the 2nd PP unit, but he has just 11 shots on net in 10 games. While paired with Connor McDavid on the top line, the Oilers are scoring less than 1 goal per hour 5v5, and he’s played over an hour 5v5 with McDavid. In fact, he’s played with McDavid more than any other RW this season. McDavid sees a decrease in shot attempt percentage, unblocked shot attempt percentage, and goals for percentage while paired with Yamamoto.

Anyone who is praising Yamamoto’s effectiveness on the top line, or even the top 6, is really doing so without checking to see what the team has actually accomplished with Yamo on the ice. This all sounds highly negative, but I think we can all agree that Yamamoto has offensive talent and is likely to break through eventually. He just hasn’t yet. He hasn’t and it’s so obvious that he hasn’t that it makes me highly suspicious when someone praises him for things he clearly isn’t doing. What motivation do we have for this? I don’t know.


Oct 16, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his third period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Puljujarvi is just 145 days older than Kailer Yamamoto but while one is being given all the opportunity in the world despite his production, the other seems on the verge of washing out of the team. Puljujarvi is being talked about like a bust, while Yamamoto is just starting his career. It seems entirely crazy, but it isn’t inconsistent with the development plan of the Oilers, which is to take high picks and force them into the NHL as soon as possible then let the hockey gods sort out the rest.

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These days, Jesse Puljujarvi is the target of comments about his inability to think the game at a high level as well as frustration about his poor defensive game. That says nothing about his inability to score. Those three areas, taken together, really sound like the scouting report of a failed pick. He’s definitely no Kailer Yamamoto, who has earned that top six time, that’s for sure. That’s why he’s a healthy scratch!

Well, there’s a problem here. I’m going to ignore the “can’t think the game” charge for a second and look at the other areas first. We should talk about Jesse Puljujarvi’s poor defensive game, because he doesn’t actually have a poor defensive game. It’s really the one area of the game where we can say Puljujarvi has exceeded expectations for almost his whole career. Of course, we have to ask ourselves how we can tell someone is doing well defensively. Typically, someone who is defensively proficient will be responsible for reducing the number of shots and chances against while on the ice, which in turn means more time for offense. His entire career has been marked by higher shot attempt and goals for metrics relative to his teammates.

When we talk about players that are bad defensively or are unable to think the game, I think it’s hard to reconcile that discussion with actual proof that they do better than their teammates on the ice in areas that are supposed to be affected by these traits. Dumb players do not consistently do better at pushing the play the right direction. Poor defensive players don’t spend less time in their own zone than in the attacking zone. It does not compute.

If Puljujarvi could be more like Yamamoto it would actually bring him down in areas like points per 60 minutes, takeaways, shot attempt percentage, and his impact on Draisaitl and McDavid. The one major glaring statistic for Jesse Puljujarvi that seems to explain why all of a sudden he can neither think the game nor play in his own zone, is his PDO. Puljujarvi is sporting a .935 combined shooting and save percentage. This is the third lowest on the team and almost certainly out of his control. His on-ice shooting percentage isn’t awful (comparatively), but he’s getting just .894 goaltending behind him through his seven games.

PDO is the stat that is found to link closest to public perception despite having a very low correlation to repeatable talent. Jesse’s sucks, so he sucks and everything is awful.


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It definitely appears as though this team is gearing up to make long term decisions based on a tiny window of play. It also appears that actual results are completely divorced from the way fans and media are discussing these two players. They are so close in age and yet have been handled completely differently from each other, which is also playing into how we perceive them. Based on what they have done or not done this year, I think it’s perfectly fine to say that both deserve to play in the AHL right now. You can even tell me that both deserve to play in Edmonton’s top six. What doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny is telling me that these two players are extremely different in their effectiveness and that one has earned top line minutes while the other has earned four straight games in the press box. That just doesn’t jive with reality.

  • Hemmercules

    Numbers aside, the eye test says that Yam has been better. At least from what I have seen. Both guys should be where they belong, playing big minutes in the minors.

    Ideally the team should have an NHL player in all of JP, Yam’s and Bouchards place but those are the cards Chia dealt himself.

    The Oilers just haven’t handled JP correctly. A year back home with an english tutor and a full season in the AHL and I bet we would be seeing a different JP right now. Stop forcing the issue and let each player develop on their own path. The trick for the Oilers is deciding which path each player needs and they seem like the don’t choose correctly most of the time………..First round pick!? Straight to the NHL no matter if you prove you belong there or not!

  • Rama Lama

    It’s very simple……..we have management that cant’ identify talent and a coach that cant develop talent.

    I like Yamo but come on NO one thinks that JP has been given a serious opportunity. I have see him benched for less than what LD gets away with. Leon give up on plays all over the ice ( defensively speaking) and skates back to the bench like he is skating on concrete.

    Send JP down and let him work with his peers……..I am certain he will shine!

  • TKB2677

    What it comes down too is Yamo is more ready. I think playing junior hockey in North America makes you more ready for the NHL. JP have 100 NHL games and if you watch him, you can’t tell. He doesn’t know where to go on the ice, he still does junior moves and still makes junior mistakes. JP needs to be in the minors playing 20 mins a night for the whole year. He’s 20. It’s OD he’s not ready.

  • The future never comes

    This article is the cold hard truth. Yamo is being praised for tenacity etc.. but with the best player in the world and another top flight winger, 11 shots in 10 games is not cutting it. Not only are his attempts low, I don’t see him generating offensive threats for his line either. At some point, the results have to be there, and to date they are not. Also, in terms of generating penalties, they are largely due to Yamo being physically outmatched and tossed around. I would bet my bottom dollar Jesse would have more goals/assists if the roles were reversed. It’s okay though because Rattie will probably be back within a week; the discussion will turn to where does Yamo go from that day forward. As a side note, with all of this chatter, I would not be shocked if he scored two goals tonight, because that is how things usually work out.

  • Yamamoto is not effective as a bottom six player.this may be why he is getting supposed preferred treatment. Jesse has the size and speed to be able to work his way up the lineup it may take longer than expected but I believe she will get there

  • Just facts

    I think that something that is always missed in these types of discussions is how is the player responding to what the coaches are asking of him. If the player listens and makes adjustments, even if they are still not executing exactly as asked, the coach is going to develop more trust in them. If of the other hand they keep ignoring what is asked, even if they achieve some results, the trust is not going to develop. I have no idea what Jesse is being asked to do that he isn’t but it seems apparent that there is a disconnect with the coaches. I think the coach and the team have been clear that they see the talent in him, but that they are frustrated that by now he is not getting it. With Yamo it seems he is making the adjustments they want to see, even if the results in terms of points are lacking so far.

    • Chest Rockwell

      JF you hit the nail on the head. Oh and by the way none of us keyboard jockeys here have been to all the practices to see and hear what’s going on and the results there after. Yamo is still in “Just do what the coaches ask so I can stay in the show” mode. Once he’s not afraid to make a mistake he’ll start putting up points.

    • IRONman

      Look. Yamo is Yak. Great will. Great heart. Not putting up numbers. Jesse needs time. Jesse has all the tools to prosper. Yamo ain’t getting bigger and is on max effort. If Kassian has the same spot as Yamo who would have more points? I think Kassian. Last time I checked both guys have 1 goal but how many minutes has Yamo played?

  • Vanoil

    Seriously Matt — are you watching the same games as the rest of us??? No one is critiquing PJ’s size or skill, its the obvious brain-farts and mental lapses, the lack of attention to detail, which distinguishes him from Yamo. Yamo’s consistent attention to detail due to his desire to stick is what makes him “earn” his ice time — he isn’t a liability, regardless of who he plays with/against. PJ is the opposite, he is high risk, and that spells trouble against those players who pay attention to detail — whether its first or fourth line opposition. It might work against the weak teams, but not against the level of comp we had in October. He is sitting for a reason. Yamo may not be on the scoresheet, but the number of PP he draws do result in points given our current PP, and that DOES make him better suited to the line-up at this point than PJ.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The problem I see is that when Jesse came in to camp he was flying and in the preseason he was really really good and he seemed to have confidence, then the season starts and the Oilers play a couple games and boom that kids confidence is gone. IMHO opinion there is something going on btwn TM and Jesse. You can sit and say well Jesse made this mistake or he wasnt doing that, but there were other players even vets making mistakes, Benning was horrid..just hoorid, and he wasnt better much last season either, and he got yanked out for one game and then got dropped back in.
    Garrison had some bad games but got out and then back in, same with Kassian and other than penalties and one goal I wouldnt say Kassin should stay playing in the line up if he isnt doing much.. Lucic wasnt doing much his first couple games and then came back roaring so did Cagguila.

    We have seen what happens when TM doesnt trust a player, look at Nillsson and Brossoit, those guys got mop up duty half the time and the times when they did get in a game they may have been riding the pine for a long long period. There seems to be this undying loyalty to the vets who can make mistake after mistake and still get ice time, rarely does TM sit vets Benning was a shining example of that last season, so was Lucic and Cagguila along with Strome.

    TM seems to have what I see as a harder stance on Jesse, whether it is a dislike or what I dont know but something is going on there, the kid came into camp and the preseason with what seemed like a ton of confidence and then boom that confidence is gone, I doubt Jesse is so fragile that he cant take criticism and that everyone needs to walk on egg shells around him

    The Oilers history for developing prospects isnt anything to brag about, there are more than enough cases out there to point where a player in the Oilers system didn’t work out here, it has been like that with roster players as well. Whether it is the shots being called from above TM’s head who knows, but the Oilers cant aford to squander prospects and roster players because they cant seem to develop them.

    Right now Jesse needs to go down, because I dont think the kid has any confidence, whatever was there is the preseason is gone, who who knows, but I think he needs to get away from TM and get playing some games and get his confidence up, but at the end of his ELC, I doubt Jesse signs back here, he is going to go elsewhere

  • Munson

    This article doesn’t jive with reality. Passive aggressive Tmac hate. JP sucks. It’s over Rocky. At least Yamo cares. But I’m prepared to be proven wrong because JP’s game during a thunderstorm on a mountain top corsi is .0034% higher then Yamo.

  • OilCan2

    First things first. The Oilers are winning against the creme da le creme.

    Secondly they have three solid YOUNG players in Yamo, Bouch & Jesse. I would be concerned if any of them were trade bait.

    Look back to the most recent Stanley cup for the Oilers and you will see three YOUNG players who did great things: Adam Graves, Martin Gelinais and Joe Murphy.

  • Towers-of-dub

    Henderson, any idea why the stats are the way they are? Is there a reason why he gets 0.894 goaltending when he’s on the ice? If we don’t know the reason why, is the statistic useful? Or do we just say the save percentage isn’t good when he’s on the ice, so he doesn’t play? Will that poor save percentage follow him around? If so why? Stats tell you what happened. I’m interested in why it happened? Any answers?

  • PJP

    Nicely framed argument. You don’t have to agree (and clearly many don’t) and the stats are only as good as the data (which is a small sample size).
    Also, we don’t know what the human dynamics are (player + coach, player + player, amongst the coaches, heck GM + coach) so there could easily be other explanations (and no, I don’t mean conspirators theories – people can disagree over what their eyes and brains tell them).

    But an interesting take on things this time from Matt that is worthy of consideration.

    Forgive my ignorance please, but if PDO is considered just ‘luck’ can’t one develop a stat to correct for it? It would also be cool to see all JP and Yamo’s stats in a head to head table, perhaps also including some comparables?

  • Arfguy

    Here’s what I think:

    Yamamoto > sent down to play in the AHL
    Puljujarvi > sent down to play in the AHL
    Cooper Marody > Given a shot on the right of the first line

    I am not seeing what is glowingly positive about Yamamoto that Puljujarvi does not have. Puljujarvi is willing to shoot a lot more than Yamamoto, I think. I am also not seeing a whole lot of chemistry between McNuge and Yamamoto. Yamamoto may be a good Oiler some day, but in all the games so far I have not seen him make even a handful of plays that would lead me to believe he is NHL material right now.

  • PDO can go up or down but will settle around 100 over time. Like flipping a coin, as your attempts go up the number of heads/tails will balance out.

    If you do 100 coin flips and have 85 heads, you know there’s absolutely no way that’s gonna continue. JP having a 93 PDO means either he is laughably bad and has no business playing pro hockey, or there’s some unlikely events happening that can’t continue happening at the same pace

    • abbeef

      I’ve heard this said though I’m not sure if it is true. For example if a player has propensity for having turnovers in areas that result in HDSC (high danger scoring chances) then it would make sense for the goalies SV% to be lower while he is on the ice. Also if a player is an absolute sniper that has a higher shooting % than their PDO will be higher. Also for a player that defends the opponent from getting HDSC should have a better SV% when on the ice. I haven’t studied the stats to see if it is true but it makes logical sense to me.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Fire Todd McLellan now, and put J.P. on one of the skill lines, and leave him there. One mistake does not equal a trip to the rafters, otherwise we’d have no players on the ice. Yet this is how Todd treats J.P.!

  • Big Nuggets

    Both to the AHL please. Let them develop some confidence on offense and call them up later in the season if they are playing well. Same protocol for any prospect. AHL development time is an asset that isn’t being utilized. Playing big minutes and scoring goals in the 2nd best hockey league is perfect for a player that isn’t quite ready to contribute in the NHL. They aren’t quite contributing in the NHL so its an easy call.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Yes that’s true they can go down to the AHL, gain confidence, then come back up. The problem is, after they come back up, JP will once again be in TM’s doghouse due to some little mistakes and lose that confidence all over again. The only way to change that dynamic is to fire that terrible coach, and let someone who can treat him fairly give him a chance.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    Unfortunately, they’re BOTH underachieving. So what do you do? Hope that Rattie comes back and doesn’t get injured again, and hope this, and hope that. It’s just a crap situation we have with RW.

  • russ99a

    So is Puljujarvi’s PDO say he’s unlucky or he’s not playing well and dragging his line down? Could be either. IMO, his preseason results vs. lesser competition tells us he’s not ready for this level.