Young Jesse Puljujarvi turns 20 years of age today. He’s spent two years with the Oilers organization, and I’m going to take an opportunity to take a look back to the season that we all just suffered through. Then we’ll look forward. I’ll give you all a heads up before the paragraphs start coming, and it’s a fact that Jesse Puljujarvi should be spending most of the time on the top two lines next year. Honestly, he should probably be next to McDavid, but we’ll cross that bridge in a little bit.
The fourth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft finished with 20 (8-12-20) points in 65 games. If you take the most casual look at those numbers, you’re not going to see very many heads turn for 20 points. Puljujarvi’s most common linemate in 2017-18 was Milan Lucic. Lucic had a season to remember for all the wrong reasons, the third line was often rounded out with Ryan Strome down the middle. It created some really lacklustre stuff. There wasn’t very much offence to go around. Lucic shot 5% and change on the year, Ryan Strome scored 34 points, and Puljujarvi...scored twenty. Throw a trip to Bakersfield in there along the way (1-4-5 in 10 games), and it could start to get a little frustrating after Puljujarvi’s second pro season.
STATE OF THE NATION
By now, we’re all quite aware of the fact that the Oilers had their lunch eaten for them on deals that saw Taylor Hall go for Adam Larsson and Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome and cap space. Why bring that up? The Oilers don’t have much going on in the scoring wingers department. After the playoffs became a pipe dream, the Oilers ended up putting Ty Rattie on the top line for a while. Rattie held his own while he was there, but that sort of thing doesn’t come from a team with a lot of options in mind.
Unless the Oilers make a splash this July in free agency, there’s little relief in sight. I think there’s a greater than 50/50 chance that Kailer Yamamoto is in Edmonton to open the season. That’s not a lot of experience on the right side, but who’s going to play on the top two lines, Zack Kassian?
A WORK IN PROGRESS
If the Oilers plan on keeping Ryan Nugent-Hopkins next to McDavid in 2018-19, they almost have to put Puljujarvi on one of the top two lines. If he doesn’t take a big step in 2018-19 with significant top six time, there may be a cause for concern. Until then, let’s top acting like putting him on the third line is doing any service for Puljujarvi (or the Oilers, for that matter.)
Put your best players in positions to succeed. That starts with Jesse Puljujarvi playing along McDavid or Draisaitl in 2018-19.