- NHL Hall-of-Fame defender Brad Park: ”(Rick Middleton) could pick your pocket defensively. Offensively, he could turn you inside out.”
I talked about this a little while ago, but wanted to revisit this issue with a tweak. Although we don’t have Jesse Puljujarvi’s offensive outer marker, I am fairly certain we can assert he has the natural tools to be a fine defensive forward. JP is a natural, he already tidies up in the neutral zone and tracks down errant passes. Some players have a sixth sense (Rick Middleton did, fellow Finn Jere Lehtinen too) and I believe Puljujarvi has that gear.
When we last discussed this area, I projected Puljujarvi as being less offensive than I originally thought, but a more impressive two-way type. In retrospect, I framed the issue incorrectly. Allow me to rephrase: While we suss out the offense (I believe you will agree we don’t yet know), it seems we are in fact dealing with a more complete player than first thought.
For those who do not remember Lehtinen, he was an excellent two-way player who was a key part of a line with Mike Modano and Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars in that franchise’s golden era. He scored 20 or more goals seven times, twice reaching 30. Lehtinen also won three Selke Awards as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
- Gerry Fleming: ‘He is a young guy learning the North American game. We are giving him a ton of ice time. He is playing first unit power play, hit the post twice last night, he is creating offense. There are definitely areas of his game that he needs to improve on and he needs to learn about. It’s not only shooting the puck more, it is getting it off his stick quickly when he does have that opportunity—not allowing goaltenders to set. He has a quick, sneaky release.’ Source
JESSE PULJUJARVI 2016-17, EDMONTON
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.45 (No. 6 among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 2.66 (one point in 22 minutes)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 53.2
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: 1.1 (No. 5 among regular forwards)
- Dangerous Fenwick (all opponents) for 5×5%: 49.7
- Most Common Linemates: Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, Connor McDavid, Benoit Pouliot
- Shots on goal/percentage: 41/2.4
- Boxcars: 28GP, 1-7-8
- Information via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, WoodMoney and hockey-reference.
I spoke to Simon Boisvert on the Lowdown today, he mentioned JP is playing well in Bakersfield. Simon mentioned moving the puck by pass as something Puljujarvi needs to do more down there, but also mentioned the quality of his linemates may dictate more solo activity. From what I have observed in Bakersfield, Puljujarvi is getting that release tightened nicely and gaining a lot of confidence. If his scoring rate in the NHL had been 10 percent (with his shot, that is likely), Puljujarvi would have scored four goals in those 28 games with Edmonton.
I remain uncertain about his offense, but the overall quality of his play has me really enthused about this player. Whenever we discuss any prospect, I like to go back to the draft day scouting report (and value Red Line above all).
- Red Line Report: Big horse looks and plays like a Mats Sundin clone. Has the four S’s: size, skills, skating, shot. Has all the tools to be a dominant power forward who combines top-notch skills with brute force. Terrific size/strength and is impossible to move off the puck — uses wide stance and is hard on his stick. Comes alive whenever the puck is nearby. Wants to make plays. Dynamic skater accelerates in a few strides and has excellent speed. Uses long reach and soft hands to beat “D” off the rush. Dangerous every shift. Excellent puck control, often impossible to contain. Receives tough passes without slowing down. Drives the net and protects the puck well. Has good hands in close with vision and playmaking skills. Responsible two-way player has good defensive awareness. Played the playoffs and U-18 Championships with a knee injury that required surgery after the season. Source
Yes. We are seeing the responsible Puljujarvi, even at the NHL level. Getting that dynamic offense and confident, rambunctious power style into his game is the next step. Edmonton may be able to trade themselves an outstanding power winger at the deadline, for the price of a plane ticket. We wait.