Not much has gone right this season for Jesse Puljujarvi.
The No. 4 overall pick at last year’s draft lasted just 28 games in Edmonton — scoring one goal — before he was sent down to AHL Bakersfield.
He never made it back up.
Not even for the playoffs. Rather than serve as a Black Ace while the Oilers came within one win of the Western Conference final, Puljujarvi was instead loaned to Finland for the World Hockey Championship.
There, he’s gone pointless through five games, and been healthy scratched twice.
It wasn’t surprising, then, to hear Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli talk of a frustrated player when Puljujarvi came up during end-of-year media availability.
“He’s a kid from northern Finland and was frustrated because he wasn’t scoring,” Chiarelli said, per the Sun. “When he was here, he started well and lost confidence so we sent him down. 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.”
Of course, Chiarelli said Puljujarvi was also “very frustrated with his game” in Bakersfield, feeling he didn’t score enough. And there’s no doubt the 19-year-old saw fellow draftees Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine light up the NHL this year, which probably added to the frustration.
The big question for Edmonton is how this affects plans for next season.
There’s been widespread speculation Chiarelli could jettison Jordan Eberle this summer — and his $6 million cap hit — and replace him in the top-six forward group with Puljujarvi, who has two years left on his entry-level deal.
But that’s asking an awful lot. For as badly as he struggled in the postseason, Eberle still had 20 goals and 51 points during the regular season, and played a big role in Edmonton snapping its 11-year playoff drought. Can Puljujarvi replicate that? Or anything close to it?
If Chiarelli thinks he can, it makes moving Eberle easier.
If Chiarelli thinks he can’t, it makes a tough offseason that much tougher.