Looking to make the leap: Jesse Puljujarvi


This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Jesse Puljujarvi‘s English is still a work in progress, so he wasn’t exactly overflowing with words after getting drafted fourth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in June.

Was he surprised that the Blue Jackets passed on him at third overall?

“I like Edmonton, and I’m very excited to go there, and I’m very happy now.”

What does he think about the opportunity to possibly play with Connor McDavid one day?

“Maybe yes, I want to play with him, and very nice.”

And is he ready to play in the NHL right away?

“Yeah, of course.”

That last answer was the key answer.

Indeed, the expectation is that Puljujarvi will be on the Oilers’ roster next season. Though the highly touted Finnish winger only turned 18 in May, unlike most other prospects at that age, size and strength are not a concern.

“I like his big, strong stride,” said Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, per the Edmonton Journal. “He protects the puck very well. He shoots in traffic and he can make plays, too. … You don’t accomplish what he’s accomplished at the men’s level and at the international level without being a real good player. He’s obviously a real good player, but he does all this stuff and he’s a big, strong body which I like.”

A few days later, Chiarelli would concede that having Puljujarvi fall to them made it “easier” to trade Taylor Hall for defensive help in the form of Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic to help replace Hall.

To be sure, Puljujarvi will still have to earn his NHL roster spot. If he does, he could start on the right side of the third line, or maybe even on the second line if he outplays Nail Yakupov. Barring a trade, Jordan Eberle will most likely be on the right side of the first line, with Zack Kassian on the fourth.

But if it turns out that Puljujarvi isn’t ready, he’s eligible to be sent to the AHL.

“Jesse will dictate his entry into the league and the pace of it,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan, per Postmedia. “He’s highly skilled and he’s played against men in a pro league back in Finland. … Jesse’s play (in the Finnish Elite League) gives him a head start but we’ll see it turns out. There’s years where you count on things and they don’t get done. In other years, there’s surprises.”