Hello from Vancouver. I’m excited to report that Jason Strudwick found a way to only have a carry on for our three-night trip to the NHL draft. The fact it was even a discussion still blows my mind.
But I digress. Let’s talk about the draft, Jesse Puljujarvi, overpaying pending free agents and more.
Early this morning Darren Dreger tweeted out that Jesse Puljujarvi, and his agent, would like a trade out of Edmonton. This isn’t a surprise as we have discussed it the past month, but with all 31 GMs present in Vancouver the possibility of a trade might be increased.
Personally, I don’t see much changing on the Puljujarvi front. He is frustrated. The past three years have not unfolded how he’d hoped, and I’m sure the Oilers organization feels the same. But unlike the previous regime I suspect Holland will have a patient approach with Puljujarvi.
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I’ve argued for three years the Oilers botched his development. They rushed him to the NHL at 18 and then sent him to the minors for the final 39 games of the AHL season. That was the smart move, but then they had him back in the NHL at 19 and he still wasn’t ready.
Last season he, like many forwards not named McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Chiasson, struggled out of the gate. Then the Oilers sent him to the AHL where he produced four points in four games. He had fun playing again, but then the Oilers erred again and recalled him. A few weeks later he was injured and had season-ending surgery.
The Oilers are responsible for not putting him in the best position to succeed, and Puljujarvi holds some responsibility as well. Ultimately the player has some control over how he plays or reacts to the situation, but for me I hold the Oilers more responsible.
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WHAT NOW…

Ken Holland can grant Puljujarvi’s wish and trade him this week or next, when the majority of trades occur in the offseason.
Or he can do nothing and let Puljujarvi play in Europe for a season.
Since Puljujarvi was injured I argued a year in Europe might be the best for his development. He could hopefully regain some confidence, and start to show the potential that many NHL scouts felt he had when he was drafted 4th overall in 2016. It wasn’t just Oilers scouts who liked Puljujarvi.
I don’t see Holland rushing into a trade. Let’s pretend Puljujarvi didn’t ask for a trade. He wasn’t going to be looked upon to be a difference maker in the Oilers lineup this year. He likely would have started on the third line. Or maybe he and the Oilers would have agreed a year in Europe would have been the best option.
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The Oilers don’t need to rush to trade him in my eyes.

HOW GOOD CAN HE BE?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve looked at the history of many Finnish forwards and many of them didn’t have success in the NHL until they were 22 year or older. Puljujarvi has a huge frame, and he is still growing into his body. He works incredibly hard, but you can’t rush time and he needs more time to get stronger and be able to maximize his size.
That could occur next year or the year after, or he might never be the player many felt he would be at the 2016 draft.
Three different scouts from around the NHL texted me their response when I asked how they view Puljujarvi.
Scout one:
“He never looked comfortable to me. He clearly didn’t have any confidence and wasn’t making plays. Can he get it back is my main question. I like how he skates, he is good at protecting the puck, and when he plays his game he is a good shooter. Three years ago I thought he’d be a top-six player for sure. Now I think he might be more of a third line player.”
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Scout two:
“No doubt they rushed him, but my question is does he compute the game quick enough to be successful in the NHL. I didn’t see him make many right decisions with the puck. No confidence could be a factor, but for me the biggest question now is how well does he think the game. He also has to move his feet more and stop always reaching for pucks.”
Scout three:
“I haven’t seen any growth in his game since coming to Edmonton. Yes, he wasn’t ready, but I haven’t seen much improvement in his puck skills or in his reads and reacting to the play. I didn’t see him win many battles. He is still very young, and might be able to show the skill we saw in his draft year, but I’m much more skeptical now.”
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Three NHL scouts who do this for a living aren’t sure what he will become, but there are more questions now than three years ago.
It will be interseting to see how Holland handles this situation, but after many years of the Oilers not using patience on Puljujarvi, I suspect we will see Holland use patience.

DRAFT PICK…

I enjoy all the rumblings and speculation leading up to the draft. I’ve read a lot of speculation suggesting the Oilers will select Philip Broberg with the #8 pick. Anything is possible on draft day, but I would be very surprised if the Oilers call his name based on numerous conversations I’ve had, and the depth in their franchise.
I agree with the theory ‘best player available’, but is Broberg clearly that much better than the other players who will be available in that slot? It will depend on the Oilers scouts, but I’d be quite shocked if his name is called on Friday night.
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