Jesse Puljujärvi almost didn’t get to show the Oilers what he was all about. Fortunately for us, that changed last year when he arrived in a big way.
Jesse Puljujärvi was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. His entry level contract was signed and the player was badly mishandled from almost day one. Where to begin? Puljujärvi was never given a real shot to grow while on his entry level deal. He was often scratched while at the NHL level, when he played he was sandwiched between Milan Lucic and whomever was the third line centre on that given weekend. Lazy narratives came out. He spent just 53 games in the AHL over a three year period. Puljujärvi’s stock was sinking, and it was sinking fast. His agent would eventually ask for a fresh start. It looked like the Puljujärvi era would never take off in Edmonton.
A double hip surgery toward the end of the 2018-19 season and a year in Finland with Karpat would change things dramatically for Puljujärvi. Fences were mended. In some of his best work to date, Ken Holland helped repair the relationship between Jesse Puljujärvi and the Edmonton Oilers. Holland was able to get Puljujärvi to sign for two years at a tiny 1.175 AAV. It’s his best work since becoming GM of the Oilers.
Holland was about to find out that getting Puljujärvi back into the Oilers’ fold would pay in dividends.
It took six games for Puljujärvi to leave the third line and ascend to the top line with Connor McDavid, knocking Zack Kassian from that line. Really, I’m surprised it took that long. Puljujärvi spent a good chunk of his year on the top line, though he ranked just fifth on the team in power play time along the way. Puljujärvi’s first year back in Edmonton was absolutely a success, though his 25 points might raise some eyebrows for a player that spent so much of his time on the top line. Puljujärvi scored 15 goals in the abbreviated season, a career high for him. 13 of those were at even strength.
13 goals might not sound like blowing the doors off, but consider how encouraging that is for a couple reasons: 1: there’s plenty of room for him to make noise on the power play, and 2: over the course of a full season, 13 even strength goals is on pace for 20.
Twenty goals. That’s before you even get to the power play, a place where Alex Chiasson ended up getting well over twice as much time as Jesse Puljujärvi did this past season.
Puljujärvi averaged about 13 and a half minutes a game this past season. Expect that number to go up in 2021-22. He finished with a 51% CF against elite competition, he was at 53% or better everywhere else. He’s playing with confidence, something that might have been missing from his game during his first tour in Edmonton. Everything looks good for a substantial year coming up for JP.
In other words, I’d take the over.
At just 23 years of age, it’s fair to reason that Puljujärvi’s next season could be a big one. Like any prediction, a lot depends on where he’s in the lineup. I’m thinking a deal gets done for Kailer Yamamoto in the not-too-distant future, and Puljujärvi will again play the majority of his time in the top six (if not the top line). Puljujärvi just needs to keep doing what he did in the past season for a good shot at 20 goals. I think he gets that and a little bit more. With Alex Chiasson not on the roster, Puljujärvi may be in line for some of those minutes going forward. I don’t think 25 goals is out of the question in 2021-22, though I’d take another season of what I just saw.
This past season’s numbers had Puljujärvi pacing for 38 points, and remember - he was fifth on the club in power play time. I’ve got him getting a bit more time on the power play this season coming up, and I’ll put him in for 45 points on the year (23-22-45) over 82 healthy games.
Assume 82 games played. How many points will Jesse Puljujärvi score in 2021-22?
This poll is closed
Less than 30
50 or more