Over at The Athletic today, I have an article projecting the training camp list for the Oilers. It’s still fairly straightforward although Ken Holland has overloaded the roster with wingers and that’s going to have to work its way to a conclusion at training camp. One player I think most see as being a lock? Jesse Puljujarvi. Is that a reasonable bet?
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Will the Oilers repeat their power play magic in 2021?
- Lowetide: Why Dmitri Samorukov is an Oilers prospect with a big future
- Lowetide: Why hasn’t Ken Holland pursued college free agents for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Increase in skill wingers adds mystery to Oilers preseason
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ increased focus on drafting skill is key to future success
- Lowetide: A short history of Oilers’ impact prospects at the world juniors
- Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
I see Puljujarvi’s roster window as being anywhere from third line to pressbox to begin 2020-21. As the season wears on, if he plays a responsible game, there could be an opportunity to move up the depth chart.
Can we answer any questions about him now?
JP is playing on an average Liiga team that will have plenty of time off in December due to a Covid-19 concern. He plays a lot, 18:13 a night, and leads the team with 7 goals on 80 shots in 16 games. None of those numbers are earth shattering, although that’s a solid shot total.
How is Puljujarvi doing in the Liiga? We hear stories that he’s confident and the coach has noticed improvement, but is he keeping pace with his fellow Finnish players who are young and could have an NHL future? Let’s have a look.
Puljujarvi comes in at about the same spot as Emil Bemstrom, a player who posted a solid rookie NHL season at 20. JP has more physical gifts, but Bemstrom’s skills seem to be a better match for the NHL. He isn’t big, but is fast and has a scorer’s touch.
Vesalainen is an interesting player, he’s still building toward an NHL career. He didn’t have a great AHL season in his first year (60 games, 12-28-40) but has had Liiga and KHL seasons that were promising.
Kotkaniemi is a match for JP in that he has played in the NHL and has issues that he’s trying to overcome while having enormous pressure because of his draft number. He is younger and has more track, and will be an interesting player to follow in the next year or so.
I’d say Puljujarvi belongs in this group, and that’s both disappointing (he was a No. 4 overall pick) and encouraging (he is posting crooked numbers at even strength and is a successful even-strength player in a good league).
One final item: Dave Tippett inserted unproven talent into the top end of the roster last season without hesitation. Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto and Caleb Jones all played significant roles during 2019-20. My personal guess is that JP begins the season on a line with Kyle Turris, but Tippett is his own man and we’ll see about Jesse in the coming weeks.