Welcome to the 2021-22 season review and 2022-23 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 season and previewing the 2022-23 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.
Quite simply the most enigmatic Edmonton Oilers this past season, Jesse Puljujarvi’s 2021-22 campaign was filed with high-highs and low-lows. He started off the season with 10 goals and 23 points with a +7 rating in the first 28 games of the year, but fell ill with COVID-19 and his game completely changed.
Not long after well as a lower-body injury that Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft called it a “six, seven-week injury that affected the way he was skating.” Down the final 37 games of the year, he scored just four goals and 13 points, while posting a +15 rating.
Drafted by the Oilers 4th overall in the 2016 draft, Puljujarvi struggled to get a foothold in the NHL in his first three years in the league. He probably should’ve been sent back to Finland right away to percolate for another year or two, draft status notwithstanding, but hindsight is always 20/20.
His 2020-21 season was a strong one. In 55 games he scored 15 goals and 25 points finding ways to contribute in a middle-six role.
And come this past season, he got even more trust from the coaching staff. He often found himself alongside Connor McDavid on the Oilers’ top line where he was able to provide exceptional two-way value. He set career highs in assists (22) and points (36), while being one goal away from tying his previous career-high of 15.
Good production from any complementary player, but there has been lots left to love from him offensively. He at times looks lost with the puck on his stick and hasn’t quite found his scoring touch at the NHL level.
What he’s done, however, is be one of the most impactful players in the NHL when it comes to his contributions in the defensive zone. He ranks near the top of the league in terms of shot, scoring chance and goal suppression showing that teams don’t get a lot of high-quality looks when playing in the Oilers zone.
Not the type of physical player to lay massive bodychecks, Puljujarvi’s strengths come from his board play and his ability to create space for other players. He’s strong in puck battles and offensively, he doesn’t shy away from getting to the front of the net to create chances.
G – A – P
Not only was Jesse Puljujarvi, as mentioned above, one of the best at suppressing shot attempts and goals, he was also among the best in the entire league. Of 171 NHL forwards who played as many 5×5 minutes as Puljujarvi, only two players allowed fewer goals while on the ice: Corey Perry and Yakov Trenin.
Here are some more of his underlying numbers, and how they rank among the aforementioned 171 players:
- CF/60 – 1st
- CA/60 – 29th
- SCF/60 – 23rd
- SCA/60 – 128th
- GF/60 – 55th
- GA/60 – 9th
- xGF/60 – 5th
- xGA/60 – 69th
While the limitation of scoring chances and expected goals aren’t tremendous in comparison to the rest of the league, it still ranks among the highest on the Oilers. His strengths came in his ability to push the pace of play in terms of shot attempts, and there was nobody in the league that topped him. Again, his underlying numbers relative to the team is what makes him truly shine.
Looking at his isolated impact charts, you really see his ability come out. His offensive production has him impacting the game at a 16 percent rate higher than league average, while he provides defence at a seven percent rate above league average.
It also shows a willingness from Puljujarvi to go to the net to create offence, as seen by the second chart showing where he takes his shot attempts from.
No matter how you cut it, there’s lots of value in a guy like Puljujarvi to the Edmonton Oilers. Now more than ever the team is in need of cheaper complementary players, and Puljujarvi fits that bill perfectly. He can play up and down the Oilers’ lineup with nearly anyone and still provide positive results on the ice.
An RFA this offseason, there’s been much speculation about a trade and I think it would be a huge mistake. There’s 32 teams in the league that need value players, especially ones who are elite in their own zone, and the jury is out on what his value truly would be in the trade market.
The Oilers’ best move would be to sign him to a one-to-three-year deal anywhere from $2-$3-million.
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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