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The NHL’s most famous Healthy Scratch?

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NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Winnipeg Jets
Put me in coach!
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began there was a healthy debate on here about whether or not Jesse Puljujarvi is a bust. One of our main contributors, Patrick, pointed out this caveat:

Players who have put up the same kind of numbers in their draft year as Jesse Puljujarvi in the Finnish league:

Patrik Laine

Mikko Rantanen

Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

That’s all.

This got me wondering how Jesse has done compared to similar players. Short answer: Not even close. The long answer is the rest of this article. I even use the Finnish national team (who also healthy scratched him) and compare him to similar players there. I’ve come up with a few players I will use as comparables. Either because they are from the same draft as Jesse or similar Finnish players that Patrick mentioned (eg. Top 10 picks recently).

The players I’ve chosen as comparables are the other 6 guys taken in the first round of Jesse’s draft: 1. Matthews, 2. Laine, 3. Dubois, 5. Juolevi, 6. Tkachuk and 7. Keller. I’ve also included Rantanen (10th overall from the 2015 draft) and Jesperi Kontkaniemi (3rd from last year’s draft).

First, here is the hockeydb link for Jesse’s 2016 draft. You can click on the table headers to sort by them. A few things stood out to me immediately:

  1. Jesse is 5th in this group in Games Played with 100
  2. Jesse is 11th in this group in points and will, most likely, be passed by a few players this season
  3. 2 Defenceman have already passed Jesse in points in less games played (Sergachaev and McAvoy). D take longer to develop in general. So do Centres.

So here is the group I’ve chosen sorted by games played:

Games played

Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Mikko Rantanen 9 GP, 0 pts 75 GP, 38 pts 81 GP, 84 pts 177 143 0.81
Patrick Laine 73 GP, 64 pts 82 GP, 70 pts 12 GP, 5 pts 167 139 0.83
Matthew Tkcachuk 76 GP, 35 pts 68 GP, 49 pts 13 GP, 13 pts 157 111 0.71
Austin Matthews 82 GP, 69 pts 62 GP, 63 pts 11 GP, 16 pts 155 148 0.95
Jesse Puljujarvi 28GP, 8 pts 65GP, 20 pts 7GP, 1 pt 100 29 0.29
Clayton Kailer 3 GP, 2 pts 82 GP, 65 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 96 75 0.78
Pierre Luc Dubois 0 82 GP, 48 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 93 56 0.60
Jesperi Kontkaniemi 11 GP, 4 pts 11 4 0.36
Olli Juolevi 0 0 0 0 0 0.00

What I see: Jesse is 5th in a group of 9 guys. It should be noted that Rantanen had a full season last year or else he’d also be around 100 games and Jesse would be 4th or 5th.

Here is the Group sorted by points:

Points

Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Austin Matthews 82 GP, 69 pts 62 GP, 63 pts 11 GP, 16 pts 155 148 0.95
Mikko Rantanen 9 GP, 0 pts 75 GP, 38 pts 81 GP, 84 pts 177 143 0.81
Patrick Laine 73 GP, 64 pts 82 GP, 70 pts 12 GP, 5 pts 167 139 0.83
Matthew Tkcachuk 76 GP, 35 pts 68 GP, 49 pts 13 GP, 13 pts 157 111 0.71
Clayton Kailer 3 GP, 2 pts 82 GP, 65 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 96 75 0.78
Pierre Luc Dubois 0 82 GP, 48 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 93 56 0.60
Jesse Puljujarvi 28GP, 8 pts 65GP, 20 pts 7GP, 1 pt 100 29 0.29
Jesperi Kontkaniemi 11 GP, 4 pts 11 4 0.36
Olli Juolevi 0 0 0 0 0 0.00

What I see: Jesse is 7th in this group only ahead of 18 year old Kontkaniemi and Dman Juolevi who has yet to suit up in the NHL. Anyone that has played, has more points than him. Small sample alert: Kontkaniemi is currently on pace to pass Jesse’s career totals in his rookie year. He’s now at .5ppg and on pace for 40 points.

Here is the group sorted by Points Per Game:

Points Per Game

Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Player Draft Year Draft + 1 Draft + 2 Total GP Total Pts .ppg
Austin Matthews 82 GP, 69 pts 62 GP, 63 pts 11 GP, 16 pts 155 148 0.95
Patrick Laine 73 GP, 64 pts 82 GP, 70 pts 12 GP, 5 pts 167 139 0.83
Mikko Rantanen 9 GP, 0 pts 75 GP, 38 pts 81 GP, 84 pts 177 143 0.81
Clayton Kailer 3 GP, 2 pts 82 GP, 65 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 96 75 0.78
Matthew Tkcachuk 76 GP, 35 pts 68 GP, 49 pts 13 GP, 13 pts 157 111 0.71
Pierre Luc Dubois 0 82 GP, 48 pts 11 GP, 8 pts 93 56 0.60
Jesperi Kontkaniemi 11 GP, 4 pts 11 4 0.36
Jesse Puljujarvi 28GP, 8 pts 65GP, 20 pts 7GP, 1 pt 100 29 0.29
Olli Juolevi 0 0 0 0 0 0.00

What I see: Jesse is only ahead of Juolevi in this category. It could be noted that I am also tied with Juolevi. Juolevi is a Dman who has never played in the NHL.

I didn’t include Draft plus 3. However, it should be noted that Rantanen has 21 points in 13 games this season. He might actually get more points in his first 20 games of this season than Jesse did in his first 101 games played in the NHL.

Rantanen was given his 9 games in season 1. He got zero points and was sent to the AHL and KEPT there. He played 56 games in the AHL for 63 points (1.11 ppg). He came back his second year and did ok (38 points, -25). He came back his third year (this is Jesse’s third year) and lit the league up. He currently leads the NHL in points (but will be passed by Connor eventually because the Art Ross is his!). Jesse, on the other hand, went to the AHL and didn’t do that much. He also wasn’t kept there for a full season which should’ve happened in my opinion. 49 games and 33 points (.67 ppg).

I’ve noticed a contradiction a lot when reading about Jesse.

  1. He’s been given no opportunity
  2. He’ll still be 20 at the end of the season

Here’s the thing. Those 2 contradict each other. By his 21st bday (which is less than a month after the season ends) Jesse will have played anywhere between 100 and 160 games in the NHL. That is a lot of opportunity! Not a lot of players can say they played 100 games by their 21st bday. You can argue he is young and has time to grow but he’s well ahead of the curve for games played and his current age (that could also be a great sign of things to come?). This is an Oiler’s trademark as we play our first rounders almost exclusively after being drafted. It doesn’t always work. Fans around the league hate us for our draft lottery success. Here are the players we have gotten from that era. RNH, McDavid, Hall, Eberle, Draisaitl, Yakupov and Puljujaarvi. Hall and Eberle left for minimal returns. Yakupov was a bust and we got nothing for him. Puljujaarvi has not lit the world on fire either. We’re shooting around 50% with Top 5 picks. I’d say the Oiler’s have a horrible development system and can’t even turn elite draft picks into stars on our own roster. Last night’s game had fellow first rounders Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto eating Nacho’s together. The game before had Jesse and Bouchard (who has finally been sent to London) in it ‘developing’. I secretly hope we keep Bensen in the AHL all year and he lights it up. He comes in next year and makes the Top 6 and becomes successful. Maybe we’ll learn to keep everyone not named McDavid in the NHL when they are 18 past 9 games (see Rantanen).

There is a good argument to be made that we haven’t given him the right minutes with the right players. That very well may be true. Any stat that I’ve seen that shows Jesse is every bit as good as Pastrnak, Leon, Rantanen etc. seems to show minutes in situations but no points. I hope someone here writes the article explaining why Jesse should be in the Top 6 as a contradiction to my own article. For the record, points wise, Jesse’s last good stint anywhere was 3 years ago at the World Junior Championships in 2015/2016 (17 points in 7 games).

I felt, last season after we were eliminated from the playoffs, we spent more time developing Ty Rattie than we did Jesse. That was absurd to me. I also noticed that Kailer has gotten much better minutes and opportunity than Jesse this season. I currently don’t see why Kailer is better than Jesse or deserves the minutes. Having said that, Kailer has gotten minimal points on that top line as well and is now a healthy scratch himself. It’s not an easy fix to just go on the top line. ‘Put him with McDavid’ isn’t always the solution (Eberle, Lucic, Rattie, Yamamoto and Yakupov). My own theory is that Jesse lacks hockey sense and keeps taking silly penalties and that is all the coach currently sees. Their visions of hockey don’t mesh well.

Also, it’s the player’s job to convince the coach they deserve the spot. Would anyone want to bench Caggiula or Chiasson right now? They’ve got 9 goals compared to our 3 young first rounders (Evan, Kailer and Jesse) 3 goals. Much like the 3 first rounders, they were also healthy scratches and had minimal powerplay time and top line time to start the season. I would argue that they started in much worse positions than Jesse and Kailer and here we are. Lots of undrafted players have been successes in the NHL, late round picks becoming steals, guys that started in the AHL and worked their way up, 4th liners working their way up the line. A lot of it is on the player to make it impossible for the coach to not play them. 1 point in 8 games makes you very benchable. Unless Jesse wants to learn to take faceoffs or become a penalty killer then his value is scoring.

Back to opportunity and the coach not liking him. 2 years ago Jesse played for Finland at the World Championships. Here is the roster. What was interesting is that the coach healthy scratched Jesse there too. So that is now 2 coaches that have healthy scratched him. One of them is Finnish. Please remember that Columbus could’ve had Jesse at number 3 but their Finnish GM passed on him as well. Jesse did get in the final 8 games and got zero points and finished dead last on the team in scoring. You might also notice that a 19 year old Rantanen got 10 points in those 8 games.

The year before, an 18 year old Rantanen played in 5 games and got 1 point (compared to Jesse at the same age playing 8 games and getting 0 points). You might also want to note that the leading scorer of that team is number 2 pick and fellow 18 year old Patrick Laine with 12 points. So we know the coach isn’t afraid to play young players. In fact, his team was led in scoring 2 years in a row by them. Yet Jesse didn’t have that success. For those wondering, that gold medal team was led by Koskinen who had a .947 and led the team.

Another argument is that a cap strapped team has to bring in these cheap talents on ELC’s to fill out the roster. That it is a trend in the NHL. It is true that happens but not all the time. In fact, it’s a rarity. Only 2 players have played more than 22 games (the top 2 picks Hischier and Patrick) from the 2017 draft. Note that Kailer has the 5th most played games of that group. Last years draft only has 6 guys playing in the NHL. Of course, one of them is an Oiler. There is a strong trend of the Oil having their draft pick be Top 5 in games played but nowhere near the top in terms of points. The Oil almost always play their first rounders right away regardless of size, age, maturity, nationality or position. If they drafted a goalie in round 1, they’d probably play him too. #fearofrushing may be a thing but putting our first rounders in every year hasn’t yielded spectacular results for us at all. Elias Petterson had outstanding numbers and was sent back to Sweden for another year. He is now starting to be a star. He has less games than Kailer and will probably pass Jesse in career points total this season alone.

I know my stance won’t be popular as Jesse is a huge fan favourite. I’m a big fan too. It could be noted that I wasn’t upset when Czech first rounders Martin Necas, Filip Zadina and Martin Kaut were all sent to the AHL. I won’t be when Ostap Safin is either. I’m wondering when Filip Chytil is going down as well. So this isn’t something I have against Jesse. I just feel like he should’ve spent a lot more time in the AHL (or Liiga) up to this point. I’m not labelling him a bust by any means. However, if he wants the top minutes with the top guys, he’ll have to do something with the limited minutes he has. Chiasson did it. Caggiula did it. Last season, Ty Rattie did it. Pontus Aberg went from being waived TWICE in a month to scoring back to back 2 goal games on the first line in Anaheim. The result? He got 19 minutes in the Duck’s last game. When the Pens were in town a few games ago, Dominik Simon got an assist in under 5 minutes of playing time. He is now on a 5 game point streak and got 17 and 19 minutes in his last 2 games. You want top 6 minutes? Unless you are Milan Lucic, you have to score points and work your way up!

Parting shot

It occured to me last night that the last time I heard so much uproar over a first round pick not playing for the Oiler’s it was Rob Schremp! Schremp was taken 25th overall. He had hands of gold and was one of the original shootout specialist guys. He lit the OHL on fire (also for the London Knights). Most would agree he WAS a total bust. So, last night, I thought I’d look up his stats.

In his first 96 NHL games - Schremp got 50 points.

In his first 96 NHL games - Jesse got 28 points.

Schremp (.73) also had a higher .PPG average than Jesse (.67) in the AHL.

Fans will be happy to know that Schremp is still playing and loves the game. In fact, he lit up the Austrian league last year for 47 points in 38 games!