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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.

  • IceMan11

    I think the kid does have talent, but he looks totally disinterested on the ice.
    He doesn’t have much trade value either, so yes, send him to Bakersfield and hope he begins to dominate. Then bring him back, put him on the #2 line, or possibly on the 1st, with McDavid & RNH, and give him the opportunity to succeed.
    If no progress is apparent, then there’s no choice but to move him.

      • fasteddy

        That’s my concern; IQ. It feels like Yak all over again but with even less dynamic skills. At a minimum the kid could be a very impressive third liner if he just used his speed to forecheck and backcheck….but he seems in between; part floater/part shooter/etc. If he went as hard as Yamo, with his size and speed he’d be a contributor without putting up points. But instead he plays soft doing loops instead of puck pursuit aggression.

    • Zav19

      Chia should be fired already!! This is a joke and if they don’t get it figure out soon Yamo and Pulu will be ruined or want out. Absolutely 0 reason to have them up here and being pulled in and out of the lineup. Only our GM would do such a stupid thing

      • jesse says yep

        If a player is “ruined” because he cannot secure a place in the lineup and yet gets to practice with NHlers, then he isn’t much of a player. It would be optimal if Jesse and Yamo were in the minors IMO but a hockey player is a hockey player. They may have their development delayed but, if the have the goods, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to figure it out at some point. Having a player up who isn’t ready is a waste but doesn’t ruin a player permanently.

      • Gull

        Yeah after the Oilers signed Lucic and made it to the playoffs and should have went three rounds, you must have been just pissed at the Lucic signing. Give me a break.

  • KennyG

    Terrible management of this kid from day one. Nothing can be done to get any more out of JP in an Oiler uniform and once he’s traded he will be another player that will do well on another team. We can’t develop young talent but everyone else can. Thats what PC can use as his pitch in a trade. Sad but true..

  • SnowMan8

    I remember his draft year I i totally got the feeling there was a deal on the table with montreal which was hall, fourth overall and maybe a benning for P.K subban but when Pulj dropped to 4th oilers Ran to make the pick killing the deal and 11 mins later it was webber for subban. which would have been the exact bold type of moves this team needs not the latteral and worse deminishing trades.

  • Sparky Blue

    Isn’t the Bakersfield coach the one that got sent down cause he couldn’t do diddly in Edmonton. How is he now going to help JP. Trade him before he gets fed up of TM and goes back to Finland and we get zip.

  • ARB

    Bakersfield has 7 games in 16 days starting on 16th to close out November. He should be heading down now to get a good week of practice in with the Condors before that stretch and than play big minutes in those 7 games in all situations. That’s a lot of hockey and maybe it would get his confidence back up. It’s also way better for him than playing on the friggin fourth line or sitting in the press box.

  • rnj

    Send him down already this is getting ridiculous. We wouldn’t be here if he was sent down when he should’ve been, just suck up the minors stint fix the situation and he’ll be back and producing in no time. His agent shouldn’t be saying anything, hes not producing. You want a spot put up some numbers

  • Rama Lama

    TM is not a development coach. Jesse has not been given a legitimate opportunity to succeed……..he gets bounced around lines like a yo-yo…….no getting to know your line mates past a shift or two with this coach. If you do not produce you instantly sit the next few games…….gee it’s no wonder this kid is squeezing his stick so tight.

    He has looked no different than his peers on the third and fourth line but continues to be singled out by TM for his play. We have had too many busts recently under this coach…….even Connor looks frustrated. Maybe it’s time to send our coach to the minors so he can join his friends down there?

    • Die Hard Oiler Fan

      “TM is not a development coach”.

      Agree with all of your comments above. TM’s approach (only playing those who have earned his trust…..usually veterans) has only been compounded by the strong possibility that he gets fired if the team shows any sign of falling out of the playoff race.

      I am generally supportive of JP going back to the AHL (Yamamoto should be going too …he is not producing either and has been afforded considerably more opportunity higher in the lineup than JP), assuming there is actually someone there capable of helping him develop. Is Woodcroft capable of this ? I don’t know. That said, let’s assume JP does go to AHL and does progress and regains his confidence. He then gets recalled by the Oilers. Will TM actually give him a REAL shot in the top 6 (with some PP time), or move him back to one of 3rd or 4th line, bench, or press box the moment something goes wrong ?

      To summarize, I agree that JP has some things he needs to work on, however, can he ever have any confidence playing under TM ?

  • hagar

    I wonder if he is still as good as he was before being drafted when battling Laine for draft ranking?
    Did he hit that skill level and top out like happens some times with players, or is he actually worse now than before?
    Laine came in firing off the hop, its like he took that last massive step good players do with skill at that age usually, and Pulj maxed out or something.

  • Otto79

    Looking at the track record with young players, it’s not a surprise. Hall, Eberle, Dubnyk have all moved on and found more success elsewhere. Is it management, is it coaching or is it the microscope they work under with the fans and media in Edmonton? I follow this team daily and I believe it’s all 3. We’ve changed managers and coaches many times. Can’t change the fans and media though. They need to change themselves. It’s not Lucic, Talbot or Jesse or any of he other players. It’s the fans and media in Edmonton.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Joker is like the Karate Kid getting stuck at the Cobra Kai dojo. You cant take an insecure, immature kid in a totally foreign situation and expect great development. Give him some reassurance and encouragement, if you cant because the team has to win how’s he gonna get better?

  • OilersGM

    This organization is the best in the league at ruining players plain and simple. Put Puljujarvi with McDavid and let him come into his own which he had some success last year after the first call up but McLellan has a short fuse that burns quickly if everything doesn’t go well every game.
    I blame the organization for not recognizing how the coach and the GM for that matter have handled young players here. No right winger have earned the top line spot even Rattie so why not play Puljujarvi there beyond a game or two. Let him play 10-20 games there to gain confidence and who knows he might just become the player we all expect of him and be a mainstay on the top line.

    • the dope $teez

      10-20 games on the top line??? So you’re ok with us missing the playoffs again? Puljujarvi is not a useful player now on any line, full stop, case closed. So the oilers need to decide if they want to actually try to turn him into a useful player, or trade him for pennies on the dollar. Personally I could care less as either way he’s already proven to be the least effective player out of those drafted in the top-10 that year, so at most I see him as a third line grinding type winger. More realistically I see another yakupov, no hockey IQ or desire to play within a team system, so I imagine he’ll end up in the KHL within 3 years.

      Regardless of if you think the oilers messed up his development or not, this is where we stand due to following the herd on drafting the guy and then not giving him the tools to succeed up to this point. We all know the organization is rotten from the inside out an completely incapable of making sound decisions. Christ I’m surprised the smartest guys in the room didn’t pass on Connor McDavid.

  • Stinky Mitt to the Face

    At this point You would think hat Jesse would understand or even appreciate a trip to the minors. TM won’t play him and JW would love to have him.

    PC must have some sort of deal with his agent. Why else would he not send him down in his first year until his 40th game? He should have been in the minors last year….and this year.

    • No doubt that GM is looking like a genius right now. Dubois plays center, is a plus player, and has double the points with fewer games played. I can’t believe we passed on USHL/OHL stud Mattew Tkachuk for JP who hadn’t even played on north america ice surface. Then we attempt do develop him in the toughest league in the world. The more I think about it a trade for immediate help seems like the way to go.

  • Heschultzhescores

    The Oilers are like the AHL of the NHL. We are a minor league organization where high-end prospects flounder until they leave and excel under actual Big League management.

    • Heschultzhescores

      But would the Oiler’s have ruined him? We assume it’s the same production, but that was produced by a different organization. I agree with you, but this organization can ruin pretty much anyone who isn’t a generational player. And maybe McD gets 150 points on a different team playing with an actual sniper on his wing instead of being used as a slump buster. I certainly don’t see McD getting less points on another team.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Behind the scenes shot capturing Jesse and Todd getting along https://www.google.ca/search?q=magilla+gorilla+football&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwigrITBycreAhVLBTQIHaIhD_wQ2-cCegQIABAC&oq=magilla+gorilla+football&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-img.3..0i24.26375.31634..32027…1.0..0.201.1886.6j8j1……0….1………0j30i10j0i8i30j0i67j0i30.xvRPc3Hj9J0&ei=ZzPnW-DcKsuK0PEPosO84A8&client=ms-android-bell-ca&prmd=ivsn&biw=360&bih=560#imgrc=cV0EhwgFo7nfZM

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I can sum up my fears about Jesse with a brief history of the Oilers drafting players based on inflated #s (yes I know it’s hindsight):
    1) M.A. Pouliot, NHL bust (Crosby’s linemate)
    2) Sam Gagner, good player/never matched inflated expectations (Patrick Kane’s linemate)
    3) Jesse (Aho, Laine) – I think Jesse will be more of a Gagner than a Marc Pouliot, but he needs to get his head out of the clouds.