With Eberle gone, Puljujarvi could fill key scoring role

1 Comment

This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Jesse Puljujarvi‘s first year with the Edmonton Oilers started with promise, but quickly turned to frustration.

Selected fourth overall last year, the talented Finnish winger scored in his NHL debut — and then went 27 games after that without a goal before he was sent down to the minors.

When the Oilers were in the playoffs, the now 19-year-old Puljujarvi was loaned to Finland’s entry at the World Hockey Championship.

“He’s a kid from northern Finland and was frustrated because he wasn’t scoring,” said Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli told the Edmonton Sun. “When he was here, he started well and lost confidence so we sent him down (to the AHL affiliate in Bakersfield). I saw him play a few times and saw a lot of his video and he actually had a pretty good year with 29 points in 39 games in the American League.

“He had a period of apprenticeship, maybe something he didn’t think he’d have. I’m not unhappy with his development. Every time he touches the puck in the American League, there’s a pretty good scoring chance.”

Puljujarvi wouldn’t be the first young and highly touted Oilers prospect to get sent down mid-season.

Leon Draisaitl, taken third overall in 2014, played 37 games in Edmonton during the 2014-15 season with only two goals and nine points to show for. He ended up getting sent back to junior to finish the year with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. Back in the NHL the following season, his point totals have rocketed upwards. He recorded 77 points in 82 games last season while spending time on a line with Connor McDavid.

Draisaitl recently cashed in on an eight-year, $68 million deal. Will Puljujarvi experience the same sudden uptick in production next season? Or a big contract at the end of his entry-level deal? Maybe. Maybe not. But there is no sense panicking just because his first year in Edmonton included its share of struggles and, eventually, time in the AHL. He did, after all, turn 19 in May.

“Maybe right now it’s not the right time for him up here,” Draisaitl told the Oilers website in January, when Puljujarvi was sent to the AHL.

“He needs to understand that that’s probably the right thing to do right now. I didn’t want to understand it at that point when I got sent down but after you go down there for a couple weeks and come back up, you start to realize it’s probably a good thing. It gave me more ice time, I played on the power play, and it’s going to be the same with him.”

Despite what transpired over his first year, there could be an opportunity for Puljujarvi to earn a bigger role with the Oilers — certainly a full-time role with the NHL club — this season following the summer trade of Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders.

That move takes a scoring right winger out of the lineup, and while the Oilers have other players at that forward position — Ryan Strome and Zack Kassian — it’s reasonable to think that when training camp opens next month, Puljujarvi should be in line for a substantial look to try to fill that void.

If he’s successful, all the frustration from last season will quickly be forgotten.

The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

Getty Images

Players of the Night:

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

Highlights of the Night:

Filthy pass:

First-goal celebrations are always the best:

Voracek with a slick move in front:

Save of the year candidate:

Factoids of the Night:

Home is where the wins are:

A legend passes a legend:

Believe in McJesus:

Scary Scenes of the Night:


Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

Oilers 4, Panthers 2

Devils 3, Kings 0

Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

Bruins 3, Lightning 0

Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

Wild 3, Coyotes 1

Sharks 5, Canucks 3

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

Leave a comment

We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

He did not return to the game.

If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

Backes did not return to the game.

The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

“Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck