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Not many people see an Oiler every day, but to see the same one for the second week in a row is something. This time I was on foot, so I was able to say hi to our pizza-loving Finn, he lives in and around the downtown area where I work. There was a bit of a language barrier; I asked how was the first day of camp and he said “doesn’t start until tomorrow,” of course I knew that. So I asked how were physicals, he said “good”. I would’ve so loved to have gotten in an audio interview, but it’s already tough enough when you can’t establish a conversation on a lack of understanding each other.
I remember watching the 2016 draft fondly when the Blue Jackets passed on Jesse, who we all thought was a shoe-in to be taken third overall, it was like a gift had been floated to us. I was excited for him to be an Oiler, and I was excited that he would be one of the first top flighted Oiler forward prospects to not be rushed into the lineup.
Fast forward to last fall where Jesse cracked the roster to start the season with that big smile on his face. He played in 28 games where he managed a respectable 8 points (1G, 7A) averaging 11:15 minutes a game. As it became apparent that Puljujarvi was struggling and there wasn’t going to be tons of ice time the Oilers made the smart move to send him down to the AHL. His numbers on the farm weren’t attention grabbers he played 39 games and had 28 points (12G, 16A) with 10 PIM. It seemed as though fans were panicking that the big man at 6’4 wasn’t piling up the points and dominating the league. I think we sometimes forget that he was only 18 last season, just an infant, trying to adjust to the North American game, language, and culture.
A lot of fans don’t know this but Puljujarvi was taken under the wing of Anton Lander, he was a contact that was there for him in Edmonton as well as Bakersfield. Unfortunately for Puljujarvi, Lander left for the KHL. The Oilers made a smart move by bringing in veteran Jussi Jokinen. They’re pretty much doing what Florida did back in 2014, they get someone who brings in a bit of leadership, can play a role on the team, and can be there for the young kid trying to adjust. This isn’t a knock at Lander, I liked him, but he just couldn’t convert at the NHL level.
As I stated yesterday they’re going for a scoring third line with Nuge down the middle with Jokinen and Puljujarvi on the wings. How can you not love this line? It’s fast, it’s talented and it’s going to shock a few line matchups when they’re going for that checking, gritty, grinder bottom six line. The ONLY thing I don’t want to see the Oilers do is waste Jesse away in a checking role like it felt they were doing with Yakupov. I’m sure Todd will use the big Finn in the best role, unlike the way our favourite coach Eakins used Yak.
Hopefully, Jesse worked just as hard this past summer as he did eating pizza. I can see Puljujarvi working his way up into the top six, he has the skating, the shot, as well as the hockey sense; the question remains, can it all link up at the same time? Do you think that Puljujarvi will have a strong camp? What are your expectations for him this season? Let me know by shooting me a tweet @noorzy.