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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The day after: Jesse Puljujarvi looking like new player in return to Edmonton Oilers

Welcome to the day after where we dive into what’s happening with the Oilers the day after a game. Here’s last night’s post-game article. 

One of the most enigmatic Edmonton Oilers is finally finding his way.

Jesse Puljujarvi had a rough start to his NHL career with Edmonton. He struggled to adapt his game to North America as an 18-year-old and it showed as he was the youngest player in the league at the time. He looked confused and often out of place and his game just wasn’t where it needed to be.

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When his entry-level contract expired he left the team returning home to Finland. There, he committed himself to the game and honing his craft as a complete hockey player. With a new head coach and general manager in Edmonton changing the culture of what the franchise has been, he’s made his triumphant return.

Through the first two games of the season, there’s one thing that’s clear: Jesse Puljujarvi is making the most of his time back in Edmonton.

He hasn’t scored any points, but he’s made his impact felt on the ice in the Oilers bottom six every time he stepped out on the ice. From a numbers perspective, Puljujarvi has been posting a much better shot attempt rate relative to the other bottom-six players at 5v5 and a better expected goals rate, too. This all the while a

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Last night Puljujarvi fired seven shots on net tying him for a career-high all the while having the third-highest individual expected goals for all Oilers players. On top of that, he’s doing it from all of the right places.

His individual event map as shown above highlights how Puljujarvi made a name for himself in front of the Canucks net. Five of his seven shots came from within 15 feet of the net — the area of the ice where players are most likely to score from.

Away from the front of the net, Puljujarvi’s game has developed impressively, too. When he has the puck on his stick he’s done a great job of protecting the puck and using his frame, much like Leon Draisaitl does, to shield the puck from opposing players. Puljujarvi looks like he’s bulked up over the last two years, too, all without losing any of his speed.

The work he’s put into his game is paying off and the points are going to come sooner rather than later. And some of those may come on the powerplay, too. Alex Chiasson, who played over four minutes on the powerplay last night, has struggled through the first two games with long looks as the Oilers net-front presence. Dave Tippett gave Puljujarvi a look there last night and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again Saturday against Montreal.

Puljujarvi generated two shots on net in 51 seconds of ice-time doubling the count of Chiasson’s and had a team-leading 0.28 individual expected goals.

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Nonetheless, one thing is clear and it’s that Puljujarvi is impressing those around him. Both Dave Tippett and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had good things to say when asked about the Finn.

There’s obviously lots of season left and we’re only looking at a two-game sample size with Puljujarvi, but it’s clear he’s returned to Edmonton a man looking to prove his doubters wrong.

It’s going to be fun to see what he does the rest of the way.

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Backhanders…

  • After the game, Tippett said Mike Smith was “unfit to play.” He said they’d be waiting to see what happens today with their goalies. Could they be claiming Anton Forsberg back from Carolina? Forsberg has remained in Edmonton and wouldn’t need to have a quarantine period ahead of rejoining the team.
  • Tyson Barrie got his first point with the Oilers scoring an assist on McDavid’s second-period powerplay goal. He head manned Leon Draisaitl out of the Oilers zone and appeared to be looking for the pass back. McDavid joked in his post-game last night about it. I loved Barrie’s reaction after the goal, too. You can tell he’s excited to be in Edmonton and how could you not when you get to quarterback a powerplay with two of the game’s best scorers on it.
  • I was impressed with how sharp Mikko Koskinen has been in both games. Giving up five goals Wednesday stunk, but he made some big ones when he needed to. More of the issue came from defensive lapses that made it hard on Koskinen. Last night he looked dialled in stopping 38 of the 40 shots he faced. I’m curious to see if Tippett goes to Koskinen on other back-to-backs through the rest of the year. There’s minimal travel involved for the Oilers in those games this year.

On Twitter: @zjlaing