Before the 1994 draft, Glen Sather told his scouts he didn’t need a home run at No. 4 and No. 6, but both prospects chosen needed to be bona fide and play feature roles in the NHL for a long time. At No. 4 the team Jason Bonsignore, and it was not a successful choice. At No. 6 overall, the scouts tapped Ryan Smyth on the shoulder and gifted Oilers fans with the perfect modern Oiler. At the end of the day, procurement remains the life’s blood of an organization and getting it right with those early picks is vital.
Jesse Puljujarvi was chosen No. 4 overall in the 2016 draft, the sixth earliest selection in team history. One of the things we discussed before the beginning of this season was the his offense, because we didn’t have a long resume on his scoring ability. JP looked fabulous at the WJ’s and his Sm-Liiga numbers (50gp, 13-15-28) were lesser but in the range with Patrik Laine (46gp, 16-17-33).
This season started well (Puljujarvi scored his only NHL goal to date in Game 1) but he lost confidence and hasn’t played in the NHL since January 5. What’s he been doing in Bakersfield?
The story is here. My feeling is that quoting it in a second language would be wildly unfair, so will only say he sounds frustrated and determined based on what google translate could tell me. For our purposes, I wondered about signs of progress, and if this time in the minors is working. I can tell you that my read was this: Once Anton Lander joined his line things began hopping, but also think it’s fair to give young Puljujarvi credit for his own scoring.
- January 2017: 9gp, 2-5-7 .778
- February 2017: 11gp, 5-4-9 .818
- March 2017: 8gp, 2-5-7 .875
- Season Total: 28gp, 9-14-23 .821
- NHLE: 82gp, 14-22-36 .439
Although my perception of his scoring is that JP has increased offense markedly in recent weeks, the numbers by month suggest he has been pretty consistent throughout the piece. Let’s compare his time in the AHL with Mikko Rantanen and his first three full months in the AHL:
- November 2016: 10gp, 4-10-14 1.40
- December 2016: 9gp, 5-4-9 1.00
- February 2017: 12gp, 7-9-16 1.33
- Season Total: 52gp, 24-36-60 1.15
- NHLE: 82gp, 20-30-50 .610
- Actual NHL 2016-17: 66gp, 14-17-31 .470
The problem is, you develop a past. We talked about this back in the summer, about how much offense he might deliver. JP is in the minors, and frustrated, but also learning about the game and what he has to do in order to succeed. He is not scoring at the same rate as Mikko Rantanen a year ago, and the NHL is saying we should assume something less than .500 points-per-game next year unless he plays with Connor McDavid. We may be looking at a two-way winger who does not score goals at the kind of clip we associate with a No. 4 overall selection. That is not a statement of fact. They are not elite numbers, but he is 18 and this has been a difficult road.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In reading the interview, I was heartened by his determination and how much emotion was conveyed with his words. I will tell you we knew, and I mean early, about the 1994 draft, good and bad. Sometimes talent isn’t enough, and for me those words from Mr. Puljujarvi are the most encouraging thing about his season. Keep pushing young man, you push like hell. We are cheering for you in Edmonton.