Jesse Puljujarvi

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Oilers send 2016 first-round pick Puljujarvi back to the AHL

Jesse Puljujarvi is back on his way to the American Hockey League.

On Sunday, the Oilers sent the 19-year-0ld Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in 2016, to the Bakersfield Condors, after he scored twice with three points in five preseason games for Edmonton.

It appears the play of 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto through training camp could’ve played a role in the decision to send Puljujarvi to the minors, where he scored 12 goals and 28 points in 39 games last season.

Yamamoto is listed at only 5-foot-8 tall, but he’s been very productive throughout his junior career and has impressed during training camp to the point where beginning the season in Edmonton has become a real possibility.

The Oilers have the option of keeping Yamamoto with the NHL club to start the year, giving him nine games of experience and then sending him back to junior without using up a year of his entry-level contract.

McLellan expects Strome to ‘respond and be better’ after sending preseason message

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Ryan Strome played a portion of Saturday’s preseason game on a line with Connor McDavid.

That, according to reports, eventually changed throughout the course of the game, as coach Todd McLellan put prospect Jesse Puljujarvi on the top line in place of Strome.

In part, the move was made to help get Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in 2016, going offensively. In part, the move was made to send an early message to Strome, who was acquired in the Jordan Eberle trade in June. That was essentially the explanation McLellan delivered following the game, according to Sportsnet.

He reiterated that on Monday.

“In Ryan’s case, it was a message that went to him fairly early in the process, just so that he gets it out of his system early,” McLellan told reporters.

“I’d rather do that now than do it two or three games into the year and have him confused or wondering what or why. We sat with him today and went through some video clips and we expect him to respond and be better. We’re still trying to figure him out as he’s trying to figure us out. But we’re going to push him . . . to be the player that we believe he is and hopefully it pays off for him and for us.”

The Oilers continue their preseason schedule tonight at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Strome, 24, has the ability to play both center and on the wing, which should give McLellan more options as he sets his forward combinations ahead of the regular season.

In terms of the message from the coaching staff, Strome called it a “learning process.”

“I saw a couple of the clips that I thought could have been improved on,” said Strome, per the Oilers. “Clean that up and I really just think that at the end of the day you have to get yourself ready for the start of the year. It’s building, and trying to get to where you want to be.”

Edmonton makes decision with Puljujarvi — he’s off to the minors

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Last week, Brough wrote how the Oilers needed to make a decision about Jesse Puljujarvi‘s playing future.

Today, they made it.

The Oilers have sent Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick at last year’s draft, to their American League affiliate in Bakersfield. The decision comes after the 18-year-old’s ice time bottomed out in Thursday’s win over Boston — the Finnish winger played a team-low 3:27 against the B’s, his second-lowest total of the year (and to be fair, his lowest total, 3:07 against the Isles, was the result of an injury.)

Things have been trending in this direction for a while. Puljujarvi’s play has been erratic, and his ice time has decreased as a result — prior to the Boston game, he logged just 9:14 of ice time in a 3-1 loss to Columbus.

Puljujarvi finished that game with no shots and a team-worst Corsi of 23 percent at even strength. He also took a holding penalty in the first period, which the Blue Jackets turned into a power-play goal.

The decision to send him to Bakersfield has been hanging around for quite some time. Even before this latest stretch, Puljujarvi clearly hadn’t earned the trust of head coach Todd McLellan, who’d made him a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli had also previously acknowledged a stint in the minors could be best for Puljujarvi’s growth as a player.

“This is an age-old dilemma,” said Chiarelli. “You have to balance the development at playing eight minutes (in the NHL) versus 15 minutes or 20 minutes somewhere else.”

Oilers have a decision to make with Jesse Puljujarvi

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It may soon be time for the Edmonton Oilers to send Jesse Puljujarvi to the AHL.

Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft, logged just 9:14 of ice time in last night’s 3-1 loss to Columbus. He finished with no shots and a team-worst Corsi of 23 percent at even strength. The 18-year-old winger also took a holding penalty in the first period, which the Blue Jackets turned into a power-play goal.

Frankly, there were times when he looked a little lost out there.

Granted, he was hardly the only Oiler who struggled against the NHL’s hottest team. It was not a good night for veteran wingers Benoit Pouliot or Jordan Eberle either.

But Puljujarvi has only played seven games since the start of December. He only has one goal in 27 games, and he clearly hasn’t earned the trust of head coach Todd McLellan.

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A few weeks ago, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said sending Puljujarvi to the AHL was, indeed, a possibility.

“This is an age-old dilemma,” said Chiarelli. “You have to balance the development at playing eight minutes (in the NHL) versus 15 minutes or 20 minutes somewhere else.”

The Oilers have three games left on their road trip — Thursday in Boston, Saturday in New Jersey, and Sunday in Ottawa.

At practice this morning, Puljujarvi skated on the fourth line with Anton Lander and Mark Letestu.

Defending champs Finland sent to relegation round of World Junior Tournament

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One year ago Finland took home its second gold medal in three years at the World Junior championships thanks in large part to its incredible trio of Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi and Sebastian Aho, the top-three scorers in the tournament.

With all three players now in the NHL (Laine and Puljujarvi were two of the top-four picks in the 2016 draft to Winnipeg and Edmonton respectively; Aho, a second-round pick in 2015, is having a wonderful rookie season in Carolina) the roster for the 2017 tournament was obviously not going to be quite as good.

Other than maybe Canada, there probably is not another junior hockey program in the world that can lose a trio like that and come back with a team that is anywhere near as loaded.

But nobody expected Finland to be in the position it finds itself in now.

Thanks to Switzerland’s come-from-behind 5-4 shootout win against Denmark on Friday evening, Finland not only failed to advance to the quaterfinal round of the 2017 tournament, but it now finds itself in the relegation round of the tournament where it will have to play a best-of-three series against Latvia for the right to return to the tournament in 2018.

The loser gets relegated to Division I Group A for next year.

It is a stunning fall for Finland and marks the first time in the history of the tournament that a country has won the gold medal one year, and then had to play in the relegation round in the next tournament (via Mike Morreale of NHL.com).

Again: This is a program that has won this tournament in two of the past three seasons.

To this point Finland has yet to win a game in this year’s tournament, losing a pair of one-goal games to the Czech Republic and a surprising Denmark team, and then losing to Sweden 3-1 on Thursday.

All of that put Finland into a situation on Friday where it needed Denmark to beat Switzerland to set up what would have been a huge game on Saturday against Switzerland that could have helped Finland advance out of the preliminary round and avoid potential relegation.

For a while it seemed as if Finland was going to get that help. Denmark actually held a pair of three-goal leads on Friday evening against Switzerland (3-0 and 4-1) but could not hold on as the Swiss rallied to send the game to a shootout, where it was able to win it 1-0 thanks to a goal from Marco Miranda.

Finland’s preliminary round game against Switzerland on Saturday is now completely meaningless.

The big issue for Finland this year was a stunning lack of offense that saw the team score just four goals in its first three games. Finland scored 18 goals through the first three games a year ago, with 10 of those goals belonging to Laine, Puljujarvi, Aho and Mikko Rantonen.

All four players are currently in the NHL, with Laine currently sitting among the league’s top goal scorers.