Former Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli almost tripped over himself in 2016 when he ran to the stage to select Jesse Puljujarvi. The consensus third overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft fell to Edmonton at pick four, as the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois instead. It seemed like a dream scenario for Edmonton. Puljujarvi’s tenure in Edmonton has been anything but a dream and is likely to come to an end in the coming weeks.
The Edmonton Oilers jerked Jesse Puljujarvi around, mismanaging him from day one. He wasn’t ready for the NHL at 18 years-old, but after the Taylor Hall trade Edmonton rushed him anyway. He played in 28 games in 2016-17, never truly showing any comfort level in the big leagues. He scored just one goal, on opening night, and finished with eight points before being assigned to AHL Bakersfield in January.
Puljujarvi got another crack in Edmonton in 2017-18, playing 65 games and scoring 20 points (12 g, 8 a). There were signs that Puljujarvi was making progress. He looked good in a stint on Connor McDavid’s wing in late December. He followed that up with a dominating preseason this past fall, upping expectations.
The results were disastrous. Puljujarvi scored just nine points (4 g, 5 a) in 46 games and saw his season end in February due to a hip injury. For the third year in a row, he split the season between the NHL and AHL and never had a consistent role in the Edmonton lineup. He officially requested a trade last Thursday and will play in Europe if his request isn’t granted.
What Went Wrong With Jesse Puljujarvi?
The Oilers, as described above, mismanaged this asset from day one. If the back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL wasn’t bad enough, former Edmonton bench boss Todd McLellan never gave Puljujarvi a consistent role. His most common linemate in 2018-19 was Milan Lucic, who was one of the worst offensive wingers in the NHL this past season. His center was a rotating door that included veteran Kyle Brodziak and Sam Gagner. Gagner spent over half the season in the AHL, while Brodziak’s career is now in jeopardy.
In the few instances Puljujarvi did get the bump, he played scared. That falls on his shoulders, but it is at least understandable. After all, one mistake usually resulted in the young Finn getting sent right back down the depth chart or even healthy scratched. There was no leash for this young player, and as a result there was no trust between player and management/coaching staff.
Edmonton also didn’t help this player off the ice. Puljujarvi, at just 18 years-old, was relegated to living in a hotel by himself for four months. Not to mention, he was more than halfway across the globe and spoke next to no English. There was no effort from the organization to get him help with the language. There was also no real effort by a young locker room to make him feel comfortable.
The Edmonton organization failed this young player, that’s a fact. Whether it was failing to support him off the ice or build him up on it, the Oilers never gave Puljujarvi a real chance.
The Bruins are a really good fit for Puljujarvi in a number of different ways. First is the strong locker room that Boston has, led by Captain Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. A big reason why Puljujarvi wants out of Edmonton is the locker room situation, which is far from stable. That won’t be an issue in Boston. The Bruins have exactly the kind of leaders Puljujarvi needs to guide him and teach him to be a pro.
Bruce Cassidy has done a wonderful job of developing players since taking the job in February of 2017. Puljujarvi would be a reclamation project, but he’s got all the tools to be a top-six forward. He’s got size, he’s got speed, he can win puck battles and he has a solid shot. This is a good player that has to find his way. Cassidy has a penchant for helping young players.
An ideal spot for Puljujarvi? On Boston’s third line, handling right wing duties with Charlie Coyle at center and David Backes or Chris Wagner on his left. Proven NHL’ers and veteran leaders to help show him how to play the NHL game the right way. Edmonton never even considered to give the talented Finn that chance.
In terms of cost, Ken Holland is primed to be robbed in a Puljujarvi deal. Pending RFA Danton Heinen, of interest to Edmonton as recently as last season, could be part of the package heading to Alberta. It probably wouldn’t take much more than that to get this deal done.