In terms of being front of mind for fans and pundits keeping tabs on the Edmonton Oilers so far this pre-season, it’s been a pretty busy week for Jesse Puljujarvi no matter how you look at it. Can you say great expectations? It’s that time of year.
Puljujarvi got things started Tuesday with a goal and an assist in a 6-0 waltz against the expansion Seattle Kraken, looking right at home on a line with captain Connor McDavid and newcomer Zach Hyman. Of course, that’s exactly where fans hope to see Puljujarvi earning his keep this season.
Yesterday, I was listening to TSN 1260’s Dustin Nielson talking about Puljujarvi on his show, projecting how many points he might get this season. While Nielson wasn’t willing to go with 70 points, he said 60 seemed realistic. Jesse’s career high, 25, came in 55 games last season.
Along the same lines, Paul Almeida of @AzorcanGlobal posted a Twitter poll asking who’d compile the most points this season. He listed Puljujarvi, Matt Tkachuk of Calgary, who put up 77 points in 2018-19, Pierre-Luc Dubois of Winnipeg, who potted 64 with Columbus a few years ago, and Vancouver’s Brock Boeser, who had seasons of 55 and 56 points back-to-back. Almost 60 per cent of people who responded had Puljujarvi leading in points. Sure.
Then, for variety, we saw a photo of Puljujarvi and his dog mugging for the camera not far – what looks like dangerously close, truth be told – to a bison. While that’s got nothing to do with clearly heightened expectations for Puljujarvi, the pic will certainly join the old video clip of Jesse chowing down on a slice of pizza as part of his folklore. It’s hard not to like the big kid.
We’ve made note of this before, but it’s remarkable how things have changed for Puljujarvi, who is still only 23, since he returned from Karpat. After struggling to find his niche and not sure where – or if — he fit during his first stint here, Puljujarvi has been a different player. He’s not a finished product, but the time away has allowed him to mature and grow.
I’m not convinced Puljujarvi is ready to put up 60 points or outscore Tkachuk, even playing wing with McDavid and getting some more power play time, just yet, but the possibility he could push a 60-point pace isn’t the knee-slapper it would have been 24 months ago. The thing is, I could be flat-out wrong.
Puljujarvi still needs to show better finish around the net, but he’s spending more time there and there’s no question he’s going to get his chances playing alongside McDavid. As for what’s possible, McDavid has more of a front row seat than any of us do and he had plenty to say after the whitewash of Seattle Tuesday.
“There’s definitely another gear he can get to,” McDavid said. “He’s such a big, powerful man, and as you play more games you start to figure the game out a little better, you start to understand where the danger spots are on the ice and how you can get lost. There’s definitely a thinking side to the game where Jesse can take another step. That will come with time.”
How and when the timeline McDavid refers to will work out for Puljujarvi, I don’t know. Neither do you. The thing is, looking at the player we’re seeing now compared to the teenager who was rushed along and too often misplayed before going home to Karpat to figure things out, it’s a matter of when, not if.
Previously by Robin Brownlee
- About Time
- Off the Top of My Head
- Not Done Yet
- Select Company
- Off the Top of My Head
- Call the Rulebook