The Oilers selected Jesse Puljujarvi with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 entry draft. At the time, a large portion of the Oilers fan base were simply ecstatic to have him fall to #4 after he was widely considered to be the consolation prize to the Austin Matthews/Patrick Laine grand prizes.
Puljujarvi started the season in the NHL and much like Leon Draisaitl a couple of years earlier, struggled to produce at the top level. Unlike Draisaitl, the Oilers were able to send Puljujarvi to the AHL where he was able to get regular minutes. The basic rule of thumb for an AHL player being a future impact NHL player is 20 years old and 1PPG. Puljujarvi spent most of it as an 18 year old and put up 12-16-28 in 38 games. Very few 18 year olds play in the AHL so it’s really tough to judge if he’s on pace or not.
I joke in the subhead about being hated by one and from the rankings, something obviously sticks out. But Patrick Olsen’s has less to do with being critical on Puljujarvi and more to do with how he interprets the list:
“He's the highest rated prospect ranked on my end. So far he is the best of them but can't be placed ahead of a player already in the league. I didn't really like what I saw of him in the NHL or the AHL last year, I hope he can put it together this year. He had a great WJC tournament last year and hasn't been good since. Small sample sizes or a real problem?”
It’s a fair assessment in terms of his results at the AHL/NHL level if you exclude his age. When you don’t come in and knock the socks off (like previous Oiler picks like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and most famously, Connor McDavid), it becomes solely about arguing the age angle. Most players don’t play in these leagues at 18, the fact that he was at least competitive in the AHL is a very good sign, but it’s no guarantee.
In terms of how he fits going forward, it’s wide open. With the Eberle trade, the Oilers lost their only proven RH scoring forward. What remains includes guys like Kassian, Letestu, Pakarinin, Slepyshev and Strome. There are some proven NHLers there, but only Letestu (and really only on the PP) have shown they can consistently produce offense. It’s a hole that’s waiting to get filled and Puljujarvi is going to get lots of cracks at it, especially if others struggle.