Oulu, Finland is a city of about 200,000—it is the biggest city in northern Finland. The average high during July is 21, warmest temp 33—meaning Edmonton should be about right for Jesse Puljujuarvi. He plays his hockey in Oulu, and the town team does well—champions many times, recently in 2014 and 2015. Jesse was born in Älvkarleby, Sweden—a town of 1,650 people. I imagine Jesse’s lack of words and big smile come from growing up in a small town a lot like the ones on the Canadian prairies. The Edmonton Oilers didn’t get this youngster for his verbal, and his actions on the ice speak volumes about his hockey ability.
Many legends begin humbly. As a child, young Henry Aaron would hit counter to Edmond Hoyle, with his left hand (Hank hit right) above his right. Why? Mr. Aaron always said no one told him different, and I expect that is exactly how it happened. The result was a terribly strained trip through the strike zone, and if anyone had given a damn they would have helped the kid. There, in that sad little story, lies the legend of Hank Aaron’s strong wrists, his lightning quick bat, and the best home run man planet Earth ever saw. You can look it up.
Jesse Puljujarvi, a young man from a town smaller than I grew up in (well, damn close), played a game called Bandy as a child. Bandy looks like a combination of hockey, speed skating and backwards cattle herding. If you click that link, I guarantee you will giggle a little, but the game is compelling. I bet a youngster who played bandy a lot would develop great strength in his legs, and probably an insane lung capacity, should the good lord gift him with the frame and genetics.
I was never gifted genetically but any fool can see the beginnings of legends, and we may have one here.
— Andrew Renfree (@AndrewRenfree) July 3, 2016
Andrew was kind enough to extend permission on the cover photo, and if you visit his twitter, there are a bunch of photos from Jasper and the Orientation camp activities. If you attended, please chime in with observations and that invite extends for the entire week.
DESTINATION UNKNOWN 2016
- (1) C Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (45, 16-32-48). Destination 2016-17: NHL from the start of course, he qualifies for this list on a technicality. Much to be decided in training camp, although wingers likely to be Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle. If healthy, does 90 points sound likely?
- (NR) R Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (50, 13-15-28). Destination 2016-17: I think he plays most or all of the season in the NHL. The small worry is the cap, as Puljujarvi (when he signs) will need to fit under a cap that includes several additions. Could he score 20 goals as an NHL rookie?
- (15) LD Ziyat Paigin, Kazan Ak Bars and Sochi HC (45, 9-19-28). Destination 2016-17: Sounds like Russia for one more year, his contract was purchased (probably) by Kazak Ak Bars—a place he struggled early a year ago. Among the things we might watch for? A return to the KHL All-Star game, an honor he earned this past season.
- (NR) L Tyler Benson, Vancouver Giants (30, 9-19-28). Destination 2016-17: A healthy season in the WHL is the expectation. Benson has shown he can play at that level, and this year he could dominate. Vancouver has been a bit of a tire fire in recent seasons, we might see a trade at some point if things go south.
- (NR) L Drake Cagguila, North Dakota (39, 25-26-51). Destination 2016-17: At least half a season in the AHL, but there is a good chance he sees NHL time. The great thing about Caggiula is that his signing addressed a major need—prospects who can score at a rate that might allow them to contribute at the NHL when recalled—and along with Puljujarvi he is an exciting option on the wing this year.
- (9) RD Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds (69, 19-46-65). Destination 2016-17: Another impact year with Seattle. Bear got his contract and now he can set his sights on finishing off his junior career with another strong campaign. He did everything right in 2015-16, and I wonder if both Bear and Jones spend time in Bakersfield after their 2016-17 junior seasons end.
- (13) LD Caleb Jones, Portland Winterhawks (72, 10-45-55). Destination 2016-17: Another year in the WHL, building on a very strong year. Genuinely excited to see his progress, Jones true ability was obscured by the scouting reports. He has a chance to enter pro hockey in 2017 as a bona fide NHL prospect if he can repeat the offense. As you may recall, he was given high marks for his speed, size and coverage before draft day.
- (12) C Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers (15, 0-2-2) and Bakersfield Condors (49, 10-17-27). Destination 2016-17: AHL/NHL shuttle, as many as 40 games in the big league. Khaira was inserted into the lineup last season and did not look out of place—that has been a rare item over the last many years. I like his size and speed, scoring will be the issue but there is a player here.
- (NR) RD Filip Berglund, Skelleftea AIK (43, 19-22-41) (SuperElite). Destination 2016-17: Berglund will play in either the SuperElite (he is eligible again this year) or the SHL. The Skelleftea SHL team finished first last season and went to the finals, looks like a veteran group. Either way, he spiked a year ago and will want to build on that performance.
- (5) LD Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oilers (29, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (30, 2-8-10). Destination 2016-17: Bakersfield unless he is traded. Reinhart has two big issues: The Leftorium and his bonus number. Edmonton has to account for McDavid, Draisaitl and (when he is signed) Puljujarvi and their hits. If he came to camp and was brilliant, maybe it makes a difference—but I can’t make the math work and the Oilers love Darnell Nurse. A very tough spot for him.
- (NR) RC Aapeli Rasanen, Tappara U20 (50, 19-19-38) (Jr. Sm-Liiga). Destination 2016-17: Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL for the coming year. He had a splendid year—including a quality U18 WJ performance—and should thrive in the USHL this year. Encouraged by this player’s resume.
- (6) G Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton Oilers (5, 3.61 .873) and Bakersfield Condors (31, 2.66 .920). Destination 2016-17: NHL for half the season. His camp has to be encouraged by the UFA selection of Jonas Gustavsson, and I think he will spend a lot of time in the NHL this year.
- (23) LD Jordan Oesterle, Edmonton Oilers (17, 0-5-5) and Bakersfield Condors (44, 4-21-25). Destination 2016-17: NHL for as many as 50 games. Oesterle has an excellent chance at this point. Edmonton does not have their third pairing set (Nurse-Davidson?) and there are injuries to men like Klefbom and Davidson that may come into play this fall. Mobile, puck mover, he could spend a lot of time in Edmonton this winter.
- (NR) LD Markus Niemelainen, Saginaw Spirit (65, 1-26-27). Destination 2016-17: A strong year in the OHL, perhaps a spike in offense. His numbers don’t pop out at you, but this is a player who posted 26 assists on a team with a popgun offense. In his draft year, Niemelainen ranked No. 2 among Saginaw D in points.
- (4) R Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton Oilers (11, 0-1-1) and Bakersfield Condors (49, 13-8-21). Destination 2016-17: Bakersfield, with a cup of coffee possible. I still like Slepyshev as a prospect, he has size and speed—but the points did not compile. He will need to have a strong year, and my guess is that the first W recalls go to Caggiula and or Puljujarvi.
- (NR) L Graham McPhee, U.S. National Development Team (20, 5-0-5). Destination 2016-17: Boston College as a freshman. He is an interesting prospect, two-way winger with skill. New college recruits often see little action, that will be his first test.
- (18) LD Dillon Simpson, Bakersfield Condors (57, 4-16-20). Destination 2016-17: AHL for a third season, maybe a cup of coffee. He was drafted in 2011, but this will be the final year of his entry-level deal. Made progress at every step, but the Leftorium is daunting.
- (NR) LD Matthew Cairns, Georgetown Raiders (46, 9-24-33) (OJHL). Destination 2016-17: Starring for Muskegon of the USHL. Cairns is off to Cornell, but not until the fall of 2017. Big defender (6.02, 202) is a two-way type and an excellent athlete. (Muskegon confirm).
- (17) LD Joey Laleggia, Bakersfield Condors (63, 8-19-27). Destination 2016-17: PP QB and racking up points in Bakersfield. Laleggia needs to make hay, and with Brad Hunt no longer in the organization and Oesterle possibly on the NHL shuttle, there could be a major opportunity for him to shine. Edmonton needs a PP QB, so the time is now.
- (20) RD John Marino, Tri-City Storm (56, 5-25-30). Destination 2016-17: Freshman year at Harvard. Marino leaves the USHL after a promising one year stay. It is difficult to know about these USA high school kids, but once they post crooked numbers in the USHL you can be reasonably sure of at least some offense.
- (25) R Tyler Pitlick, Bakersfield Condors (37, 7-14-21). Destination 2016-17: Bakersfield with an NHL recall possible. Too many players have passed Pitlick on the depth chart for him to enter the year as a priority, but he has some things that make him worth considering. Some guys look like NHL players and never get there (Jani Rita was one, Marc Pouliot another) for an extended period. Pitlick is such a player, and I do believe a lot of what is required for him to make it is luck.
- (16) LD William Lagesson, UMass-Amherst (27, 2-5-7). Destination 2016-17: Another year in shutdown role at UMass-Amherst. He was worth watching the WJs for, strong defender with substantial defensive skills. Edmonton has kids like this by the mittful, no idea how they get all of them to pro without clogging the system. He might be one of the better ones, though, speed, size and defensive acumen never go out of style.
- (NR) R Patrick Russell, St. Cloud State (41, 20-21-41). Destination 2016-17: Scoring role in Bakersfield, early or late. I don’t know enough about his footspeed to guarantee 20 goals, but he has good hands and some other elements that should give us some hope about him. Intriguing player, could pass some draft picks during the next 12 months.
- (11) C Bogdan Yakimov, Bakersfield Condors (36, 5-10-15) and Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik (11, 3-1-4). Destination 2016-17: Impossible to project. The Oilers have traditionally been an unforgiving bunch when players bolt mid-season, but it is also true he is a giant and plays center. If Yakimov is in North America, I bet he plays most or all of his time in California.
- (14) RC Kyle Platzer, Bakersfield Condors (48, 6-11-17). Destination 2016-17: Everyday bat in the AHL lineup. Two-way C entered pro hockey after a strong final season in junior, and then didn’t play a whole bunch based on estimates (13+ minutes according to Prospect-Stats). He needs to play, that is absolutely a fact.
- (19) R Greg Chase, Bakersfield Condors (19, 1-6-7) and Norfolk Admirals (43, 18-19-37). Destination 2016-17: AHL regular. Chase was forced down to the ECHL in year one, and the Condors should have several college kids and AHL vets to give plenty of competition. He is better than some of these guys based on junior numbers, but is giving up a couple of years on a guy like Patrick Russell. He needs a good year.
- (NR) L Jere Sallinen, Jokerit (50, 8-11-19). Destination 2016-17: Bakersfield all year. NHLE is 10-15-25, so I don’t see him catching Caggiula or Puljujarvi for the offensive chance—and Khaira plus others have the jump on him for the checking jobs. However, I probably said the same damn thing about Lennart Petrell.
- (NR) G Nick Ellis, Providence (36, 1.80 .936). Destination 2016-17: AHL starter or backup. Impossible to know, but Ellis had great college numbers and I think he could end up grabbing the starting role at some point in the AHL season. He would need Brossoit to get the recall, play better than Gustavsson and be better than Laurikainen. That isn’t a difficult game plan.
- (21) D David Musil, Bakersfield Condors (67, 3-11-14). Destination 2016-17: NHL 7D, AHL top pairing, or sail on Dukla Jihlava. It would be cool to know what Todd McLellan thinks of him. The fine work by ricki and WG shows that there is more than one way to evaluate D, and maybe this chap has some of that high danger magic. Such a big hill for all of these lefties to climb.
- (32) G Miroslav Svoboda, Havirov (8, 4.51 .867) and HC Sumperk (21, 3.05 .924). Destination 2016-17: Another season with HC Sumperk. It is the most difficult thing to follow as a fan—a distant bell goalie in a bus league that includes the Brno to Vitkovice run. We hope and we wait.
- (40) C Marco Roy, Bakersfield Condors (42, 8-12-20). Destination 2016-17: No contract yet. Along with men like Josh Winquist and Alexis Loiseau, Roy will have to wait until the dust clears to find a landing spot.
- (NR) G Dylan Wells, Peterborough Petes (27, 4.59 .871) (OHL). Destination 2016-17: A massive recovery season with the Petes. I have paid attention to over 40 drafts, it is extremely rare—especially in modern times—to have such a drastic disconnect between scouting reports and performance. Something fractured his season, let’s hope it is fixed.
- (35) G Zach Nagelvoort, Michigan (11, 2.99 .893). Destination 2016-17: Starting goalie, Michigan. Nagelvoort was the starter during periods of time in his three seasons with the Wolverines. Steve Racine is done with his college career and Nagelvoort should be the starter. He has struggled for the last two seasons.
- (NR) RD Vincent DeSharnais, Providence College (19, 1-1-2) (Hockey East). Destination 2016-17: Regular, Providence College. Steve Kournianos was on the Lowdown last week and gave me the impression Desharnais would have a tough time moving up the depth chart. Providence has a strong recruitment crop coming in, so we will see if this young man can increase playing time. This will be his sophomore campaign.
- (NR) W Joey Benik, St. Cloud State (41, 23-25-48). Destination 2016-17: Battling for playing time in Bakersfield and Norfolk. He is 5.10, 175 and a pretty solid college scorer.
- (27) L Mitch Moroz, Bakersfield Condors (40, 5-5-10). Destination 2016-17: AHL regular, unless the Oilers keep adding competition. The Oilers signed Taylor Beck this afternoon to a two-way deal, and he can play either wing. He is a big man, not overly physical but could cost Moroz playing time he badly needs.
- (22) G Eetu Laurikainen, Bakersfield Condors (18, 3.42 .907). Destination 2016-17: AHL backup. He struggled at times with AHL-level opposition, so this year could see him in Bakersfield, Norfolk or Finland.
- (28) F Tyler Vesel, Nebraska-Omaha (35, 6-12-18). Destination 2016-17: More playing time in junior college season. He went backwards last season, but could see a push in playing time this year. I think he is probably the best of the depth 2014 Oilers picks, but that may not mean he gets a pro contract.
- (31) D Ben Betker, Bakersfield Condors (14, 0-2-2) and Norfolk Admirals (49, 3-14-17). Destination 2016-17: I expect he will once again play between Norfolk and Bakersfield, perhaps with more AHL time than a year ago.
- (39) L Evan Campbell, U Mass-Lowell (28, 5-7-12). Destination 2016-17: Final year of college, no idea if he will play a bigger role.
- (34) L Braden Christoffer, Bakersfield Condors (33, 1-4-5) and Norfolk Admirals (24, 13-5-18). Destination 2016-17: AHL-ECHL shuttle. The jump to the AHL was too much, but he found the range in the ECHL. I think he will see action in both cities this year.
- (37) L Aidan Muir, Western Michigan (35, 2-6-8). Destination 2016-17: More success in junior season. As a freshman, Muir posted 15 points, went the wrong way in year two. He is still big and strong, perhaps he can recover.
- (NR) LD Colton Waltz, Brandon Wheat Kings (34, 2-14-16) and Saskatoon Blades (31, 3-11-14). Destination 2016-17: Norfolk. Waltz is on an AHL deal and is at the back of the Leftorium bus. Lordy.