Bob McKenzie put out his Bobcast on Friday afternoon and one of the topics he discussed was the future of young forward Jesse Puljujarvi. I’ll paraphrase the stuff that was interesting and then dive into it.
“I’m not prepared just yet to write Jesse Puljujarvi off as a National Hockey League player. I realize his body of work so far has not been impressive. This situation in Edmonton looks like it may be coming to a head.
I think over his first two years on his entry-level contract, Puljujarvi made some strides. There has been obviously time in the American Hockey League there. But I think last year, mostly in the NHL, he started to make some strides with the Oilers and I think they started to see some progress from him.
But right off the hop this year, he hasn’t been able to nail down a regular spot in the lineup and when he does play, it’s often on the third or, in the most recent game, the fourth line. There’s been much speculation that he’s on the verge of being sent to the American Hockey League to try and get his confidence back.
I think Puljujarvi is getting frustrated. I think the Oilers are getting frustrated. And I think the situation, quite likely sooner rather than later, may be coming to a head.
In any case, if the Oilers think that sending Puljujarvi to the minors is best for his development, that’s their call and he’s contractually-obligated to report to the minors. But I also think that if he is assigned to the minors on anything other than a short term temporary basis, I could see the player or the agent maybe balking a little and saying, hey listen, it’s not working out here. You’re not happy with me, I’m not happy with you. Let’s do what’s best for everybody and move on.
Now I don’t believe that trade request has been positioned at all to this point in time. But I guess what I’m saying is if Puljujarvi is destined to go back to Bakersfield, I wouldn’t be surprised if something along those lines were to transpire. It’s certainly a situation to keep an eye on.
McKenzie also appeared on Friend of the Nation Dustin Neilson’s show on Friday morning if you’re interested in more talk on the situation.
Now, it’s important to remember that this is purely conjecture. There aren’t any closely involved with the situation, either on the side of the Oilers or the former fourth overall pick, that are suggesting that things are going to soon reach a tipping point. That said, this is Bob McKenzie. What he says carries a lot of weight. McKenzie doesn’t go out and randomly speculate things that have zero basis just for the sake of starting a fire and watching the world burn behind him.
It seems that fans of the team have pretty much come to a consensus that it’s best to send Puljujarvi down to the minors at this point. He isn’t playing quality minutes with the big club, he isn’t helping the team win games, and nobody is getting anything from him being here right now. Given how simple it seems, it’s somewhat odd it hasn’t happened yet.
I think it would be silly to suggest Puljujarvi, a 20-year-old, is a bust at this point in his career. We talked about this on the ON Radio Podcast Friday, but if Puljujarvi was a North American skater, he would be in his first AHL-eligible year after Junior hockey. There’s no shame in him not being solidified at the NHL level at that point.
But I think there is a valid reason to believe he might not be able to figure it out in Edmonton. A line McKenzie said that sticks out to me is “I think Puljujarvi is getting frustrated. I think the Oilers are getting frustrated.”
Edmonton is in a win-now situation and Peter Chiarelli doesn’t have much room for error. Obviously, Puljujarvi is a great long-term asset to have. But if head coach Todd McLellan doesn’t believe in him, which is indicative given his early-season usage, Chiarelli might be prone to use him to improve the team in the short-term.
Who knows. Again, it’s all conjecture, but there are a lot of signs pointing to things not working out for Puljujarvi with the Oilers.