Photo Credit: © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Pul-please-play-me

FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote this article while watching the game on a 60-inch television in my basement while wearing a pair of shorts and a Blue Jays t-shirt.

The Oilers need to make a decision on Jesse Puljujarvi and it needs to happen right now. Sitting any 20-year old for four straight games just doesn’t make any sense.

The organization basically has two options right now. They can put Puljujarvi back in the line up alongside Strome or they can leave him on the sidewalk outside of Rogers Place and wait for a complete stranger to pick him up and drive him to the airport for a flight to Bakersfield.

After the loss to Minnesota, I could see McLellan inserting him back into the lineup, even though I get the sense he doesn’t really want to.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Just in case you missed my Great, Good, Bad and Ugly piece yesterday I’ll quickly recap one aspect of it. Former Oiler Janne Niinimaa, who the Oilers talked to Puljujarvi about prior to the draft, had this to say about the big Finn’s struggles.

“His thing his entire career is that he plays the best when he’s just out there enjoying the game with a smile on face and not overthinking or pressing things. I see him doing just that in the NHL. He wants to make it so bad and things are a lot harder in the small rink. He’s not loose and is unsure of himself.”

When I see the words “unsure of himself” I immediately think he needs time in the American League to regain his confidence. I also think it’s important to point out Niinimaa is still mentioning how difficult it is to adjust to the smaller ice even though he’s been in North America for three seasons. Draisaitl was playing on North American ice for four years, more than half of that in junior, before he “popped”.

The way I see it there are three reasons to send Puljujarvi down to Bakersfield right now.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Sep 18, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the first half at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Bakersfield Condors have not been playing much as of late but that’s about to change. Including tonight the Condors will play five games over an eleven-day stretch. Puljujarvi could go down there and get almost as much ice-time over the final four games of that stretch than he has had here in Edmonton all season.

Jay Woodcroft is clearly familiar with the player and will know what he needs to work on and exactly how to use him effectively.

The real upside would be that, unlike last time he was in the AHL, the Condors actually have some skill for him to work with.


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

Todd McLellan appears to be frustrated with Puljujarvi and he is absolutely tired of talking about him.

After the morning skate on Tuesday McLellan was asked about Jesse being scratched for a 4th consecutive game. “Players need to play, right now we are sitting here with a 19-year old, that nobody is asking me that question about, we just sat him out for two games and he’s going to sit for his third, he’s 19 and he can go back to junior and nobody is questioning us about that. Jesse’s important, we’ve got Cooper Marody, who’s hurt, we aren’t happy that he’s not playing games.”

You can tell McLellan is tired of talking about Puljujarvi because he doesn’t even really refer to him during his answer and tries to compare it to Bouchard’s current situation; which is nothing more than a reach that doesn’t make any sense. One is a 20-year old forward with 100 games of NHL experience who CAN be sent to the American Hockey League to develop, and the other is a 19-year old d-man that everyone assumes you will be sending back to junior eventually. The reason people aren’t asking about Bouchard is because they understand the team is extending his nine games as long as they can. The reason they are asking about Puljujarvi is because after four games in the press box something needs to give.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

It may be best for both Todd and Jesse if they are apart for a month or so.


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

The third reason to send Puljujarvi down is because this player is simply too important to the franchise to ruin him. His upside is EXACTLY what the team needs moving forward, they must find a way to unlock it.

So far the Oilers have not done themselves any favours in the development of the player.

In his rookie season, he scored in his first game and then played less than eight minutes in his second game. So you could say he was doomed from the beginning. Despite not producing the Oilers kept him around for 29 games even though he only saw more than ten minutes twice in December and January. What were they hoping to accomplish?

In his second season, they completely dropped the ball by not letting him run a bit after the team was completely eliminated from contention. They had multiple months to give him legitimate top-six minutes yet in February, March and April Puljujarvi only played more than 15 minutes just twice. That is absolutely ridiculous. You had three months to allow him to learn from his mistakes and develop some chemistry with Draisaitl or McDavid, it’s didn’t happen. I believe he had a brief look with Draisaitl near the end of the season but nothing significant.

In the first 100 games of his career, Puljujarvi has only played more than 17 minutes FOUR TIMES. So you can’t tell me he hasn’t been held accountable.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Right now it’s pretty simple. You can send him down to the American Hockey League and allow him to learn from his mistakes while at the same time playing as much as he can handle. Or you can put him back into the line up alongside Ryan Strome who hasn’t recorded a point yet this season and Milan Lucic who has two goals in his last 57 games. On second thought Jesse may want to request a trip down south.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • QuitForRealThisTime

    If the Oil sent Jesse down to Bakersfield after the Pens games. He would have played in 1 game. Better to stick with and practice with the big club. I assume he will draw back in against the Hawks. Both Cagguila and Yamo had tough games against the wild. I think Yamo will sit the next one. Expect JP to have a decent game may even get a couple minutes on the top line.

  • Daniel Tencer, Esq.

    Dusty, you know me, and you know I know hockey.

    I grinded my way from the very bottom, working tirelessly, with no handouts whatsoever. I watched countless highlight clips on YouTube to make sweeping generalizations about players whose names I had trouble pronouncing. I eventually barged into a Saskatoon Blades scouting meeting at the Sheraton Cavalier, drunk, and demanded a position with the club. After countless promotion(s), I am now Director of Amateur Scouting.

    So believe me when I say, Jesse is a hockey player, complete with skates, stick and helmet.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    There is something going on between TM and Jesse, how does Jesse come to camp and the preseason and be flying and making plays and then the season starts the kid makes a mistake and Tm demotes him down the line and then next thing we know this kids confidence is in the basement and now non exsistant? Seriously, Benning can be a tire fire all of last year and thats all good, kassian can be invisable all last year and no worries, Cagguila wasnt stellar at the start of the year sat out and has been better Kassian scored a goal but he seems to have taken more penalties and has been somewhat better but not a lot. Benning was a tire fire to start this year, and came back and I dont know, I dont think benning has fixed his game by sitting out one game and then being out injured.

    Jesse has talent, the kid has speed and he has hands, it wasnt by a fluke that he went in the first round in the top 5, there was a reason for that. At this point the kid needs to get the hell away from TM and go to bakersfiled, and play get lots of minutes and get his confidence back. TM seems to rail on this kid…a lot, and he obviously is trying to force Chia to send him down, because there are and were a lot of players not playing well but yet they are in the line up so that is B.S. TM has some kind of issue with Jesse, and it sure seems to be more than his style of play, when TM get asked about it the guys is seething, something is amiss there.

    Jesse needs to go to the AHL play lots of minutes put up points and want to like playing hockey again, because as much as I think Jesse wants to be part of the Oilers TM seems to have other ideas on that front.

    I will be amazed if Jesse signs here once his ELC is up, no way he signs if TM is here, and I would say, unless TM is gone, consider that kid outta here.

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      I agree with you completely. I would take it one step further though. I call for the coach to be fired, for this colossal failure, and many others. He has to stop ruining JP’s career and confidence. That kid’s potential spot in the lineup is too important to let a bad coach ruin. Fire Todd McLellan NOW, give JP a decent spot in the lineup – first or second line, power play time, power lines, etc… and let him learn from his mistakes without one mistake equalling failure. I think that his size, speed, shot, will to succeed will make him the perfect RW for McDavid if you simply allow him to develop naturally, and play with talent always.

      The Jets didn’t let Laine develop without talent. The Jets let him develop on one of their top lines, mistakes and all…and let him talent allow him to develop naturally on those lines. JP has never been given that chance, and I hate to say it, but never will with Todd McLellan around.

      If he must go down to the AHL first, so be it. But getting TM out of here is essential to the development of JP. And I would rather have Jesse Puljujarvi here uncapping all of his potential than a washed-up coach hurting this team’s potential anymore.

  • Himynameistaylor

    I’ve given McLellan a pass for a lot of stupid decisions but dressing Caggiula when he has a stronger option in Puljujarvi is so frustrating. How can you dress a player that doesn’t have the same skill level and size because “he works hard”. Both Caggiula and McLellan are becoming detriments to the team. This is the same guy that gives the Benning/Garrison pairing too much leeway when one is barely an NHL defenceman and one isn’t. Evan Bouchard should even be dressing a bit more than he has, he’s one of our best powerplay options and by my eye has been a lot better in his own end, granted I expected a lot more growing pains than what he’s displayed so far.

    I’m not one who believes in firing coaches but McLellan has to go. And I hate admitting that.

  • toprightcorner

    I don’t see this as an issue between MacLellan and JP, I see this as an issue between MacLellan and Chiarelli. Todd doesn’t think JP can fit it this lineup right now and has not shown enough progression over the past 3 seasons to earn more trust. It is up to Chia to send players down, but I think he is too stubborn to send JP down to make his 4th overall pick look bad. JP is stuck in the middle. Chia heeds to send him down for at least 10 games. If he can regain confidence and remove some of his bad habits, call him back up. Until that point though, he needs to play big role minutes in the AHL. He cannot change his bad habits in the NHL so it makes no sense to have him in the NHL until he does

    • A-co

      I have a solution my friends…What about getting rid of both Coach Todd and Pistol Pete….the new GM and Coach can be drawn randomly from tickets sold at the next Oilers home game just like the 50/50….could the random people who have their tickets drawn do any worse??? I don’t think so

    • ubermiguel

      You’re onto something here. McLellan is not interested in using his NHL team as a development team, he needs to win games. He feels Puljujarvi does not help him win games right now. Where’s Nicholson in all this? He needs to step in an make sure his employees are working well together.

      • Derian Hatcher

        If TMac wants to win, why is Looch on the PP? I know Looch has been playing better this year, but it’s obvious his hands are not soft, for tips or rebounds. Chiasson would be better

    • jsch999

      If you or anyone else on ON thinks that they would be better coaches or GM’S then TMac or Chia you should wake up now because you are in la la land. Oilernation makes me laugh how delusional the armchair coaches think they are better with probably less than 25% of the information that is actually happening around the oilers. I am a diehard oiler fan for more than 4 decades and all I can recommend is the all you fickle fans just have a little more faith that the sky is not falling every time the oilers lose.

  • TKB2677

    I think everyone believes that JP should be a top 6 guy over his career. I think everyone thinks that JP needs to be playing. I think that while some people think JP wasn’t getting “opportunity” to play in the top 6, regardless of where he was in the line up, he wasn’t playing well. I think most people think that JP has lots of things to work on and is no where near a finished product. I think most of us believe JP needs to work on his game especially as a pro, he struggles with being in the right spots, he struggles with his decision making, he’s not using his skating like he should or his big body. He just needs more time to learn how to be a pro and play like a pro.

    So with that being said, if he has lots to work on and isn’t playing well, does it make sense to play him with McDavid? McDavid ALWAYS plays against the other teams best so if you as a player are struggling to play as a pro, how does it make sense to play him with McDavid? Is it McDavid’s job to turn JP into a pro? I would say no. I would say that while Yamo has been a bit better than JP, he’s struggling and bringing that line down a bit.

    JP isn’t a 4th liner, so you aren’t playing him on the 4th line. So you have eliminated 2 spots. Leon is your second most critical line, they tried JP there for several games and he struggled. The line didn’t click or produce at all. They moved up Chiasson and he has 4 goals in 5 games. Rieder has been flying around and has done everything except score a goal and Leon is going. How do you take Chiasson off that line? You can’t. So that leaves Strome. That is where I would play him but at the same time, he wasn’t been very good.

  • KennyG

    If there trying to move him then sending him down lowers his value and by playing him in nhl and not performing well does same thing. It’s not as easy as just send him down or put him back in the lineup I don’t think. Have The Oilers really failed with him or is he a high draft pick that nhl level play was never meant to be. Either way good luck JP.

    • QuitForRealThisTime

      I think the Oil should stop sending young talented player out for nothing which is what JP would get. I do think it is time to send both Yamo and JP to Bakersfield for the year. Then have Chia to make a move for quality vet. Making trades this early can be tough but someone like Mats Zuccarello comes to mind as a good rental from a re-building team. Ideally trade for picks and lower end prospects. NYR probably want to wait until the deadline but I think now is the time.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Why aren’t you guys asking about Bouchard? For some reason local media gets stuck on one thing and don’t move away from it. Last year was Klefbom and apparently now all the worry is about JP.

    The guy you should be pestering about JP is Peter not Todd. It’s clear Todd doesn’t think he’s ready, so why isn’t Peter sending him down?

    No one is prepared to handle what Todd will tell them if tells the truth to why JP isn’t playing.

    • IRONman

      Piss poor management. First off, Bouchard is excellent. He is doing his job and holding his own. Second, Jesse deserves to play. By Yamo, you are Yak all over again. Enough cheering for the underdog. Yamo does not score. Jesse has more potential. If Jesse played on another team he would be a 20 goal guy. Tm is terrible.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      The Oilers are not going to burn a year off Bouchard, If they were going to burn it, they would be playing him. This is the Oile trying to stretch out his nine games before they have to make a decision in not too long.

      We all see like Bear there is a lot of upside in Bouchard, like Bear, Bouchard has things to work on but we see the potential in both of them is there to be roster guys down the road. Bouchard will be heading back to junior if the Oilers could put him the AHL would but they arent allowed to use that potion because it doesnt exist for Bouchard as of now.

      JP is only going to the AHL if they want to send him down, so it is either stay in the NHL or send him down to AHL. Right nowJesse’s confidence is shot, I would rather see Jesse away from TM, let him go play minutes, let him play on the PP down in Bakersfield get a ton of minutes and have fun and get his confidence back. Right now JP looks no where near the kid we saw in the preseason that was flying looked confident and was making plays, right now it’s too toxic here for him, let the kid get a breath, get some minutes get his smile back and play hockey. I dont think Jesse will like getting sent down but right now he just needs to go, it’s the best thing for him

  • VK63

    Why don’t you guys ask Elliot Friedman? He knows everything about Edmonton, evidently. All the back room gossip, all the “insights”, all the pertinent and accurate intel. He is THE MAN to answer all the questions that inquiring minds want to know.

    • Gaz

      What point are you trying to make here? Clearly you don’t think Friedman is knowledgeable or connected (that’s a terrible take, by the way). It isn’t clear, however, what point you are attempting to make. Try and be better.

      • Hemmercules

        Reply to Ironman about Bouchard:

        If you call being a minus player every game while getting almost exclusively offensive zone starts against 3rd and 4th liners excellent I guess. I really like Bouchard, he will be a good player for the Oilers but they seriously need to quit developing guys in the NHL when they don’t need to. He isn’t making or breaking this team, send him down to work on his defensive game and get big minutes in junior. It will be better in the long run for the player and the team. Oilers always thinking about right now though. You think they would have learned something with how they have handled JP but no.

    • Leichs

      Meh, I see lots of other getting developed fine. Bear, Jones, Benson, McLeod, soon Bouchard will be sent down. Those are probably the guys we contend with in the future, not the Stromes and Drakes and Reiders and Brodziacks and Bennings that we have now lol.

  • Debolt

    Where have you posters been the last few years ? Obviously not watching oiler games. There’s a reason Columbus skipped on JP ,you me and oil brass will never know…now that being said. The kid is all over the ice, back checking is terrible he “zones out” in his mind and coaches have to crack that whip more often than not. Hes 20 already,by now he should know better and for God sake hes gotta get that tounge out of his nose.?

    • The Immortal

      The skipping over in the draft argument is pathetic..many great players are drafted in later rounds..

      BTW Dubois is certainly further along the development path than JP, course he’s playing a regular shift too…

  • KennyG

    1st round picks 2013-15. Nurse,Dri,Mcd. 1st round picks 2016-18 JP,Yam,Bouchard. Not sure if this helps but I thought looking at it this way with those 2 groups of 3 might help explain why the Oilers need what everyone is saying!! Some help now please.

    • Gaz

      What are you willing to guarantee and under what circumstances would you consider such a bet valid?
      I’m not sure what you are insinuating with the women’s hockey reference (well, I can guess) but (a) you probably wouldn’t fare well in a women’s hockey game – it’s more physical that you realize, and (b) regardless of your ignorant views about women’s hockey, suggesting Yamomoto plays soft is a bad call. You clearly don’t watch hockey.

  • He should have been playing AHL in the first place. There go the Oilers developing players again. We are seeing a pattern with players like Yakupov, Slepyshev, etc.

    At least in Schremp’s day the Oilers would let a player percolate in the minors before making a decision on whether or not to give him a cup of coffee. Now they ruin a player and send them packing to Europe. Chiarelli is supposed to be this guy who can fix the development system.

    I get it that they are trying to fix the player development model. But, we are still seeing the same mistakes. Even fans and media jump on the whipping boy band wagon, when a player is ruined and bolts for the KHL.

  • Rufio Barcoli

    The Oilers are playing this well, organization wise.
    They have to resign Jesse and can’t afford to pay him much, nor do they want to.

    The Oilers will sprinkle Jesse 4-6 times in the next 20-25 games. Soon, or soon after they will began conversation with Jessie’s agent about a contract extension.
    The current state of Jesse’s play with play into a necessary money saving factor that the Oilganization created.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      LOL you really think Jesse wil re-sign with the Oilers when his ELC is up? Why the hell would he? Coach has issues with him and wont play him, gets knocked down the line if he makes a mistake when other guys can make mistakes over and over and over and keep playing. The Oilers are lucky if they gota ouck back for him right now, so they could trade him but the return would be another Pontus Aberg or worse. This kid will be pursued by other teams if he declines to sign with the Oilers and I dont see any reason Jesse would sign back here, especially with TM being here.

      The theory that the Oilers are not playing Jesse to diminish his potential ask when his ELC is out in left field, if your theory was right they also diminished his trade value as well in the process by noy playing, so Jesse is going to be okay only playing 15 games in a season in the NHL and then you’d think he would re-sign here?? Highly doubt that will happen, He would be out the door not resigning with the Oilers

        • Dallas Eakins Hair

          Even as a RFA why would he want to come back to the Oilers? His agent will have him play out of the NHL if he cant get a trade, and right now the trade value is so low, no one is goin g to offer anything that is going to cost them something. Jesse wont be back with the Oilers after this year. I would say he plays in europe or the KHL. The Oilers arent going to want to give him away for free, Chia wont survive something like that going down. Jesse I doubt wants to come back if TM is here.

          If Jesse is intent on not coming back if TM is here, the Oilers are going to be screwed, he wont sign back here hell why would he, it is going to force the Oilers hand, trade him, let him walk or he will go to europe or the KHL. RFA is just going to mean he cant go straight to another team… but he wont sign back here

          • Rufio Barcoli

            How did you manage to say so little repeatedly in so many words?

            He will come back to play hockey. I’m pretty sure that’s what his dream and goal is.
            How are the Oilers wronged him so bad?
            You would say he plays in Europe or KHL? You say a lot of things.
            Where else would he go play? Africa? Japan?
            What has TM done to Jesse that Jesse hasn’t done to TM? Get real.
            He can go to another team, all that team has to do is compensate the Oilers.

  • The Whispererer

    Slepyshev walked away at the end of his ELC. Was he given a fair opportunity to succeed with the Oilers? Jesse has more reason to believe he has been jerked around unfairly, especially when he looks at the production of those who are in the lineup instead of him. I predict that JP will not be an Oiler by next season; he will be playing in a European pro league or the KHL, or the Oilers will have traded him to another NHL team for a return that will make Strome for Eberle look like a bonanza.

  • gshok

    Sending Jesse down makes no sense at this point. It’s the last year of his ELC, so no gain to the team if he plays in Bakersfield. Are we really saying Khaira is a better option than Pujl? Play 4th line minutes at least.