It was hoped that one of (or, hell, both of) Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto could take a step forward this season and fill a top-six role in the Oilers lineup.
Little over a month into the season, that hasn’t happened. Edmonton 2016 and 2017 first-round picks have recorded two goals and one assist combined and both youngsters have found themselves bouncing from the lineup to the press box.
Not only are Puljujarvi and Yamamoto not really helping the team right now, but they also aren’t developing in an ideal way. After playing in the team’s first five games, Puljujarvi has been a healthy scratch in five of the next 11 games. Yamamoto got an opportunity on the top line with Connor McDavid in Ty Rattie’s absence but has recently found himself in the press box.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Do you send both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto down to the AHL? If so, who do you replace them with on the roster?
I think the send them down part of the question is pretty obvious at this point. Like I said, neither Puljujarvi or Yamamoto are producing at the NHL level and they aren’t helping the team at this point. Beyond that, both players are more important as long-term assets to the team than they are as short-term assets. The Oilers are already weak on the wings and, in a cap world, you badly need to be able to internally develop players rather than augmenting your team with free agent signings.
There’s a tremendous amount of skill in both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, but both are only 20 years old. We’re accustomed to Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid, and so on jumping into the NHL right out of junior and hitting the ground running, but that’s the exception, not the rule. In my opinion, both would be best served to play major minutes in the AHL, gaining confidence and refining their all-around game.
Another thing to consider is that the Bakersfield Condors, unlike in the past, actually look like a good place to develop prospects right now. Multiple Condors youngsters have excelled this season under new head coach Jay Woodcroft. The kid line of Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, and Cameron Hebig are all operating at a point-per-game basis and young defenceman Caleb Jones has eight points in 10 games. It isn’t like in the past where the Oilers’ farm squad was purgatory where the prospects got shoved behind journeymen AHL veterans.
What about roster replacements? An easy call-up would be veteran Brad Malone, who can play multiple positions, but who else? Would it be prudent to grab one of those kids who is excelling in the AHL? Cooper Marody already earned a short recall, but would it be contradictory to pull him from the AHL to give him a depth NHL role? Maybe they can look outside the organization for a filler. Tomas Plekanec was just released by the Canadiens and could be a versatile veteran to add to the mix.
What say you, Nation? Who goes down? Who comes up?