FanPost

Hope for Puljujarvi in Hitchcock

Jesse Puljujarvi has been recalled and apparently he was practicing on the 4th line, so there's some worry this is going to be the same runaround as with McLellan. But, I'm hoping for Hitch to have more success and give Jesse more of a fair chance once he gets to see him play. I'm solidly on Team Jesse, I want to be able to wear a #98 Puljujarvi jersey knowing he's going to be a long-serving impact player for the Oilers, and I'm encouraged to see Hitch appears to want to see that too.

McLellan's handling of Puljujarvi is part of the reason I've wanted him gone, and part of the reason I didn't trust McLellan to develop him was because of his track record, or lack thereof, of developing high end young talent. McLellan had only been head coach of one other NHL team, loaded with veteran talent he inherited. Because they were good every year, he never had a prospect drafted as high as Puljujarvi, with that kind of cache or expectation. I also think the foreigner / lack of English thing was a problem for McLellan. Hitchcock has coached many teams over many years so I tried to find examples comparable to Jesse and how those players turned out.

Tarasenko: The Blues left Tarasenko in Europe for two years after he was drafted, which is what the Oilers probably should have done with JP. Either way, Hitch broke him into the NHL at age 20 and he had 19 points in 38 games. Then it was 43 in 64, then he blew the doors off as a 22 year-old with 73 points in 77 games. All under Hitch. Tarasenko's ice time went from 13:25 to 15:10 to 17:37 in those three years.

Voracek: At 19 Voracek had 38 points for Hitch getting just 12:44 on the ice. The next two years it was 50 and 48 points in 15:37 and 16:58 ATOI as a 20 and 21 year old. He was traded for Jeff Carter following his third season. It should be noted Hitch was fired by Columbus 58 games into Voracek's 21 year-old season, and that Voracek didn't score much after Hitch was gone. He had 42 of his 48 points in the 58 games Hitch coached that year, then scored 6 points in 22 games after he was gone.

Carter and Richards: These two came into the NHL with a lot of cache, given their success at the WJC's. Hitch was their first NHL coach, and they had good rookie seasons. Carter, most comparable to Puljujarvi's style of play, was only played around 12:00 / game that year but managed to score 23 goals. Hitch bumped Carter's ice time to around 17:00 at the start of the next season but the Flyers had an awful start and Hitch was fired 8 games in.

Langenbrunner: Hitch's time in Dallas was a lot like McLellan's time in San Jose. Inherited a team with a Hall of Fame core of vets, and given the era they were always able to just add good players to stay competitive. But Langenbrunner was a key part of those teams and he was developed in-house under Hitch. He didn't really get a look until his 21 year-old season but scored 39 points, followed by 52 points in his sophomore season on a veteran laden team. It goes to show Hitch didn't bury him just because he was an unproven kid.

Lehtinen: A few years older than Langenbrunner but it was also Hitch who brought Lehtinen into the league. He didn't arrive in the NHL until he was 22, staying in Finland for a number of years after being drafted. Like Jesse, Jere was a dynamo at the WJC's. His NHL career was defined by his two-way play, despite being a very good offensive player in Finland.

I think that's enough to say that Hitch has shown he can coach young players and get the most out of them after a year or two, even if they enter the team low on the depth chart. Especially Europeans! It would be fantastic if he can make Jesse his next Voracek or Tarasenko project, but I wouldn't be disappointed if he becomes the next Jere Lehtinen either.

One side-note, there is a failure to mention. Pavel Brendl was a highly touted prospect who went 4th overall (like Jesse). Hitch coached him in Philly as a 21 year-old but couldn't make it work.