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Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Bob McKenzie weighs in on the Jesse Puljujarvi situation

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.

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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.

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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.


  • slats-west

    #98 lacks confidence. He’s not doing the even the basics and is putting the team in bad positions thus he needs to play more in all situations and get that preseason swagger back. Right now he’s playing passive and reactive which is brutal. He’s a young player be patient.

    • SnowMan8

      I think you’re exactly right. I think that mclellan is partly to blame. They really bumgled this one (starting at the draft). I think whats best for both player and team is if we trade him. maybe for another high end prospect who might need a change of scenery. #FireMclellan

        • Dallas Eakins Hair

          That’s just it Alex, Chia knows how if they cant get Jesse turned around and playing and happy about being here, they know he will not be back with the Oilers, no chance. Jesse will either go back to europe, the KHL. Chia wants Jesse to play but TM seems loathe to play him, lets along have to talk about him.

          If the Oiler trade Jesse, they get next to nothing for him, value is too low. If jesse says, yeah I wont be back and goes to Europe or the KHL the Oilers still have his rights but it does nothing for them unless he tears it up elsewhere, but then they are still bargining in a trade for his right from a position of weakness because he doesnt want to come back, TM has Chia in a bad spot and Chia is trying to get TM to play him by not sending him down. It’s a bad situation for all three of them

          But TM will be on the hot seat with Chia right behind him, unless TM gets this team finishing way high in the west, my guess is he is going to get gassed if Jesse doesnt want to come back with TM here or refuses to report and heads overseas to play

          • Beer_League_Ringer

            I agree with some of your post. However, suggesting we would get next to nothing for Jesse right now is a bit overboard. For example, We got a 2017 3rd rounder (and some ECHLer) for Yak. That 3rd rounder turned into Stuart Skinner. Not a bad return for someone who was traded a year too late and is no longer in the NHL. If we traded Yak before he seemed like a lost cause we would have gotten more.

            My point is this: the Oilers must commit to using Jesse as an asset one way or another NOW. If they commit to his development and risk having a bust, fine. If they cut bait for maximum return now and risk gifting a team Teemu Selanne 2.0, fine. Waiting hasn’t worked and I’m not sure what anyone is waiting for at this point.

  • OriginalPouzar

    It doesn’t make sense to me that Jesse the player should be “frustrated” because he may get sent to the minor leagues.

    Why is it egregious to Jesse that he may need the minor leagues but not to Tyler Benson, who is 2 months older than him or Cooper Marody who is a year and a half older than him?

    I think its time for Jesse (and management and the fanbase) to disregard his draft position and just consider him another 20 year old prospect and do what’s right by him and play him in the proper place to develop him.

    Right now, it seems that’s in the minor leagues – it seems a bit disappointing but that’s only really because he turned pro (North American pro) as a just-turned 18-year old and not as a 20 year old like Benson or a 21 year old like Marody.

    He’s 20 years old – if drafted out of the CHL, like Benson, this would be the first year he would be eligible for the AHL and we was eligible for last year’s World Juniors.

    Lets develop the player with disregard to his draft position or the age he turned pro (likely earlier than he should have – a year in Finland post-draft looks like the better play in retrospect).

    I’m a big disapointed that Jesse might be disapointed.

    • GRC

      Excellent post. Common sense take and I agree 100%.
      Quite honestly you are one of the main reasons why I even bother to read the comments. Your perspective is a refreshing contrast to the emotionally based garbage that litters this forum.
      Please do post more.

    • Good point. Tyler Benson has a far more impressive resume as well.

      NHL for some reason has a stigma around sending players down to the minors. MLB send superstars down for conditioning/confidence stints all the time. Send the kid down.