The Edmonton Oilers signed Jesse Puljujarvi
to a three-year entry level contract yesterday, with a $3.425 million cap hit.
His base salary is $925,000. The Oilers happily selected Jesse Puljujarvi with
the fourth selection at the NHL draft in June. Many didn’t expect him
to be there, but the Columbus Blue Jackets preferred Pierre-Luc Dubois and took
Oilersnation erupted in celebration.
Puljujarvi is 6’4” and 208 pounds. He is huge. He can skate and he was the best
player at the World Junior Championships. He looks like a great bet to be a
solid NHL player, but history suggests it won’t happen right away.
For most European players, adjusting to the
smaller North American ice surface while playing in the best league in the
world takes time. Very few of them put up huge numbers right away and most do
not play in the NHL at 18.
Here is a look at European players (who
hadn’t played in the CHL) taken in the top-ten in the past decade.
Nick Backstrom was the fourth selection.
He played another year in Sweden before debuting with the Capitals in
2007/2008. Backstrom had a great rookie year, scoring 14-55-69 in 82 games. He
is one of the best centres in the NHL now.
Nikita Filatov went sixth in 2008.
He played in the AHL at 18 and tallied 16-16-32 in 39 games. He played eight
games with the Blue Jackets and scored 4-0-4. The next season he played 13
games with Columbus but finished the season in the KHL. He would only play 53
went second to Tampa Bay. He came right to the NHL, but was a late
birthday so it was his 19 year old season. Hedman’s first three season saw him
produce 20, 26 and 23. He is now one of the top-15 D-men in the league.
Ekman-Larsson went sixth to Arizona. He played one more season in
Sweden and then as a 20-year-old he played 48 games scoring 1-10-11. He is now
one of the best defenders in the NHL.
went 10th to the Oilers. He played one more year in Sweden before
debuting in 2010. He had a decent first season, scoring 15 goals and 34 points
in 80 games. The next two seasons, however, he split time between the NHL and
AHL. During his past three seasons in St. Louis, he hasn’t been able to play higher
than the fourth line.
went ninth to Minnesota. He played two more seasons in Finland then
split the 2012/2013 season between the AHL and NHL. In his third full NHL
season, this past year, he tallied 13-31-44 in 82 games.
Adam Larsson went
fourth to New Jersey. He has a late birthday and debuted in his 19 year
old season. He played 65 NHL games, but only dressed in five of the Devils 24
playoff games. The next two seasons he split between the AHL and NHL, but this
year, his fifth pro season, he played top-pairing minutes.
Mika Zibanejad went
sixth to Ottawa. He played nine NHL games before going back to Sweden.
He played 23 AHL games during the lockout, and then debuted with Ottawa in
January of 2013 and scored 7-13-20 in 42 games. His past two seasons he has
scored 20 and 21 goals and 46 and 51 points.
Jonas Brodin went
10th to Minnesota. He played another year in Sweden, then started
the lockout year in the AHL, before going to Minnesota when the season began.
He had a very strong second season and has been solid in his own zone, but has
not progressed as much offensively as some would like. He is a reliable, but
not spectacular top-four defender.
debuted in the AHL at 18 and played 44 games after being the sixth
selection. He made his NHL debut at 19 with the Ducks and had an excellent
rookie campaign, scoring 6-24-30 in 78 games and playing 19:25/game in their second pairing. He has had three very good NHL
seasons and he is already a top-pair defender, on the brink of being one of
the rare legitimate #1 D-men in the league.
debuted with the Florida Panthers at 18 years old. The young Finn tallied
8-16-24 in 54 games (prorates to 12-24-36), and played 17:05/game. He might be
the best potential comparable to Puljujarvi due to size, age and nationality,
with the only difference being Barkov plays centre.
went sixth overall to the Hurricanes and came directly to the NHL. In
his 19-year-old season he played 58 games and scored 9-12-21. He also played
six games in the AHL. The natural centre played most of his rookie season as a
Ristolainen was the eighth selection and came directly to Buffalo at
19. He split his rookie season equally between the AHL and NHL playing 34 games
in both leagues. He had 2-2-4 with the Sabres and 6-14-20 with Rochester. This
past season, his third in North America, he emerged as a very good top-pairing
defender for the Sabres.
went 10th to the Stars and debuted in the NHL at 18. He tallied
14-20-34 in 79 games playing 14:58/game and most of that was at EV
(13:38/game). He was injured early the next season and played only eight games.
This past season he played 79 games again and tallied 9-20-29 and he played
13:55/game but averaged less PP time at only :59/game. He has yet to re-sign
with the Stars.
went eighth to Toronto. He split his 18 year-old season between the AHL
14-18-32 in 37 games and in Sweden with MODO, 8-12-20 in 21 games. This past
season he started the year in the AHL and tallied 18-27-45 in 38 games before making
his NHL debut on February 29th. In 22 NHL games he averaged
16:20/game and scored 6-7-13.
went 10th to Colorado. He started the season in Colorado and played
six games scoring no points and playing only 9:12/game. At 19 he was sent to
the AHL and had a great rookie campaign scoring 24-36-60 in 52 games. He was
recalled to Colorado late in the season and played three more games and had no
points. The ridiculous part was he only played 8:27/game after he was recalled.
Why recall the kid when he was playing great in the AHL and only play him eight
minutes/night in the NHL? It is the perfect way to ruin his confidence.
You should be very excited the Oilers were able to add Puljujarvi to the organization. The cupboard for skilled right shot forwards was pretty bare after Jordan Eberle. Puljujarvi has great speed, is competent defensively and gives the Oilers another big, skilled forward. But there is no need to rush him or have lofty offensive expectations for this coming season. The advantage the Oilers have with him compared to their previous high picks
is they can send him to the AHL, if he has a tough start, rather than
send him to junior.
Since 2005/2006, only eleven 18-year-old rookies have produced 30+ points:
GP G A PTS
Sidney Crosby 81 39 63 102
Nathan MacKinnon 82 24 39 63
Jeff Skinner 82 31 32 63
Matt Duchene 81 24 31 55
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 62 18 34 52
Sam Gagner 79 13 36 49
Connor McDavid 45 16 32 48
Steven Stamkos 79 23 23 46
Jordan Staal 81 29 13 42
Aaron Ekblad 81 12 27 39
Valeri Nichuskin 79 14 20 34
Alex Galchenyuk 48 9 18 27**
**Galchenyuk played during lockout shortened season, so most likely he would have produced over 30 points in a full season.
If Puljujarvi produces 30 points he’ll have had a very good year. If he can produce on the PP he could surpass 40, but history shows it is very difficult to score in the NHL when you are only 18, especially for players coming from Europe and adapting to the smaller ice.
He’ll have a good chance to play RW on the second line. He’ll need to beat out Nail Yakupov for that spot, but even if he is on the second line that won’t guarantee him 40 points.
In 2013/2014 they had four players with 40+ points: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, David Perron and Nugent-Hopkins all had 56+ points, but the fifth leading scorer, Gagner, had 37.
In 2014/2015 only Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins had 40+ points. Hall was injured and had 38 in 53 games, while Benoit Pouliot had 34 in 58 games.
This past season Hall, McDavid, Eberle and Leon Draisaitl topped 40.
If we assume McDavid, Eberle, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic will be the leading point producers, expecting 40 points from Puljujarvi would be expecting an incredible rookie campaign.
Only Washington (seven), Columbus, Detroit, Florida and Minnesota had six forwards with 40 or more points last season. You need balanced scoring, but you also need your players to stay healthy.
Fans should be excited about Puljujarvi, but 30-35 points is a realistic total, and anything above should be considered an excellent season for a young 18-year-old rookie.
Puljujarvi is a legend among the Finnish hockey community. He clearly has a good sense of humour and some wicked stickhandling skills at the 2:00 mark of the video. If he can dangle like that in the NHL, he might get 50 points this year.
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