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With Eberle gone, Puljujarvi could fill key scoring role

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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.

No need for Flyers to rush Nolan Patrick after injury-plagued year

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This post is part of Flyers day at PHT…

It wasn’t long before Nolan Patrick began lighting up the Western Hockey League.

Two years before he was even selected second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers, he had scored 30 goals in his first full season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. A year later, he had 102 points, vaulting him into the position as the likely No. 1 overall pick for the 2017 Entry Draft.

Dating back more than a year, however, Patrick has been sidetracked by injury.

He underwent sports hernia surgery last summer. He played in only 33 games for Brandon this past season and couldn’t play for Canada at the World Juniors. In June, just prior to his selection by Philly, he had another operation — an abdominal surgery, the Flyers later announced — with a window of four to six weeks before he could resume full activity.

The Flyers had only a 2.2 per cent chance of winning the first overall selection, yet they still made a massive move up the board when the lottery had concluded. The first pick would come down to Patrick or Nico Hischier, who worked his way into the conversation for No. 1 overall as his QMJHL season continued.

In the end, the lottery-winning Devils took Hischier and Patrick fell right to the Flyers.

In Patrick, the Flyers get a center that stands at 6-foot-2 tall and 198 pounds, and is capable of producing significant numbers offensively — at least that’s what he showed in junior. Even if his 2016-17 season was hampered, Patrick still managed 20 goals and 46 points.

“And then playing and not being a 100 percent. I didn’t play one game this year feeling [like] myself. I’ve got the summer to get where I need to be,” said Patrick, per CSN Philly.

“My skating was kind of bugging me throughout the season. I needed to get my conditioning back to where I wanted it to be. I did as much as I could, but I wasn’t pouting about it.”

Patrick turns 19 years old next month during training camp and will look to make the Flyers for this upcoming season. Given everything he’s dealt with over the last several months, it would be, despite the talent that made him a top prospect in the draft, unreasonable to place lofty expectations on him right away, as he makes the transition into the NHL.

Having him healthy and ready for camp is a good start, but there really is no need to rush him along, particularly if it’s at the expense of future gains.

“We’re looking at the big picture here,” said general manager Ron Hextall earlier this summer, per the Courier-Post. “We’re not looking at next season. We’re looking at hopefully the next 10 to 15 seasons. We will do what’s best for Nolan long-term.”

Report: College free agent Alex Kerfoot opts to join Avalanche

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The wait appears to be over.

College free agent Alex Kerfoot has reportedly made his decision, choosing to join the Colorado Avalanche, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

The news comes days after it was reported the New York Rangers were among the finalists to land the Harvard product, which would’ve provided a boost in depth at center for that club.

The 23-year-old center was also targeted by the Vancouver Canucks, which is hardly surprising given Kerfoot is from that area and played his junior hockey in nearby Coquitlam.

Kerfoot, originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils, was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award this past season, after scoring 16 goals and 45 points in 36 games with Harvard.

He decided not to sign in New Jersey, becoming an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.

Islanders add Terreri as goaltending development coach

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The New York Islanders made a coaching move Wednesday, naming former NHL puckstopper Chris Terreri as a goalie development coach and goalie coach for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

“Chris has a vast amount of knowledge and experience, both as a player and a coach,” said Islanders general manager Garth Snow. “We’re excited for him to work with our goalies at every level, as well as assist in our scouting process and to make his mark on this crucial position.”

Terreri appeared in 406 NHL games between 1986 and 2001, spending most of his career with the New Jersey Devils.

He then transitioned into coaching, spending the last eight years working as a goalie coach with the Devils.

Related: Under pressure: Jaroslav Halak

Under pressure: Claude Giroux

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This post is part of Flyers Day at PHT…

In 2014, Claude Giroux was a finalist for the Hart Trophy.

In the three years since, Giroux has experienced a rather significant drop in overall production, hitting a low point last season and leading general manager Ron Hextall when it was all over to give a defiant vote of confidence for the Flyers captain and highest paid player.

Giroux scored only 14 goals and 58 points while playing the full 82-game schedule. If there is a positive, it’s that on the power play, he was still highly productive with 31 points, which led a Flyers team that was 14th in the league with the advantage. Those 31 power play points for Giroux accounted about 53 per cent of his offensive output.

The NHL recently released its list of top-20 centers heading into next season, and Giroux didn’t make the list.

“Frustrating,” is how Giroux described last season to reporters after the Flyers failed to make the playoffs. “When you try to do something and you can’t do it — your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating.

“You’ve got to keep working on your game, get stronger, faster. I mean, I’m very excited to … have a whole summer to work out and really do what I want to do.”

That last part is key.

Giroux, who will turn 30 years old in January, struggled through a hip problem during the 2015-16 season and had surgery in the spring. The timeline for recovery from the operation was about 10 to 12 weeks, which would cut into his summer training. There was perhaps some added rush to get back considering he played for Team Canada at the World Cup ahead of the NHL regular season.

One of his notable statements prior to joining the Canadian contingent was, “I don’t feel like I have a 60-year-old hip anymore.” That should provide an indication as to how much of a struggle it was for him prior to surgery. But this year, there is no World Cup. There was no off-season surgery with a lengthy recovery. Perhaps the bounce back season Flyers fans, management and coaching staff are all hoping for will take shape for Giroux after a full summer of training.

The Flyers are expected to have some young players in their lineup, and they no longer have Brayden Schenn, who was traded to St. Louis at the draft. Nolan Patrick could have an impact on the lineup as the second overall pick, but he too is coming off an injury-plagued season in the Western Hockey League.

Adding to the pressure on Giroux is that he’s under contract for five more years — with a no-movement clause, according to CapFriendly — at a cap hit of $8.275 million.