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Photo Credit: twitter.com/edmontonoilers

The Day After: Jesse Puljujarvi and his breakout performance

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. 

And there it was: the Jesse Puljujarvi breakout game. He lined up alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid, and there wasn’t one second where he looked out of place.

He got an assist on the Oilers first goal of the game, scored by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and was a dynamic force on the ice. While it was his only point on the night, he found himself in and around the action from the puck drop all the way to the last second goal to win.

The trio looked tremendous, playing 13:34 minutes of 5×5 together piling up 83.81 percent of the expected goal share and 62.5 percent of the shot attempts.

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It was a game that highlighted the growth in Puljujarvi’s ability on the ice. And after the game, his growth as a person was on full display.

“I think I felt really good being on the first line with those great players,” he said. “I just try to work hard and help those guys. I play my own game that I try to play all the time with confidence and be strong with the puck.”

One of the most notable aspects early this season has been how he’s used his body. He’s engaging players physically and not shying away from either finishing checks, or crashing the net.

This play was one of many examples of it.

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Leon Draisaitl spoke like a true leader after the game last night when asked by our own Jason Gregor about Jesse’s game.

“You don’t get drafted fourth overall in a pretty solid draft if you don’t have skill, you can’t skate, you can’t make plays. That doesn’t happen. He has all the tools,” Sometimes guys take a little longer, sometimes guys just aren’t ready at 18, 19, 20… and that’s okay, everyone takes their own path. I think he’s really starting to understand how to play to be productive. To be honest with you, the sky’s the limit. He’s big, he’s strong, he can shoot, he can make plays. I could go on and on and on. We’re pretty happy to have him back, he’s been really good for us.”

It’s a sign of what could become a flourishing in Puljujarvi and the Oilers game. Him showing his ability to play a dynamic game helped the rest of the lineup last night, too.

The Oilers have now played three games where they had to adapt in the midst of the game. It’s going to be key for them to play lots of these kinds of back and forth games as they grow as a team.

They’ll stick around in Winnipeg and are set for a Tuesday night game against the Jets.

Backhanders…

  • Zack Kassian slid down the lineup in a jumbled bottom-six group and had a really nice assist on Kyle Turris’ goal. That group down there is nothing short of a hot mess right now, but a 5×5 goal tonight from them was key in the Oilers victory.
  • James Neal was a bright spot down there yesterday. In 11:49 of 5×5, he posted a 52 CF% and an xGF% of 75.81. It was nice to see him have a bit of a bounce-back performance in that sense given a tougher go against the Leafs.
  • Speaking of bright spots, Darnell Nurse has quietly been having a strong start to the year. At 5×5, he’s played a team-leading 132:39 controlling 54.62 percent of the shot attempts when on the ice and has posted n impressive 63.89 expected goal share. He’s on a bit of a PDO-burner with a 103 (three points above where it should), so there’ll be a bit of regression. Still, very good to see from him.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]

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