It sounds like Jesse Puljujarvi has played his last game in Edmonton.
According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, both Puljujarvi and the Oilers are ready to go their separate ways.
“Puljujarvi is deemed ‘a play killer’ inside the Oilers dressing room, it is believed, where two of the best centremen in the world have not been enough to turn Puljujarvi into a legitimate Top 6 winger in the NHL,” Spector wrote. “The puck dies on his stick in the offensive zone too often to continue to saddle Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl with such a winger on a regular basis.”
From Puljujarvi’s perspective, he might be unhappy with his role. Before the All-Star break, the 2016 fourth-overall pick was averaging 17:10 a night. Afterwards, his minutes dropped to 14:44 a game, and he was a spare part in Edmonton’s playoff run, barely clearing 10 minutes a contest.
All this cast a shadow on Puljujarvi’s solid statistical campaign, as the 24-year-old set a career high with 36 points in 65 games. The winger is also an analytics darling.
Jesse Puljujarvi might have played his last game as an Oiler, per Ryan Rishaug.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) June 8, 2022
On the surface, Puljujarvi does look like an attractive get for the Sharks. They need to improve their forward group, he’s got upside, and the pending RFA doesn’t appear like he’ll cost San Jose a ton in terms of assets or with his new contract.
“San Jose may also be a destination,” Spector speculated, “though with the Sharks in the process of hiring a new GM, that could complicate a process both sides hope to wrap up prior to next Thursday’s draft.”
According to Spector’s sources, Puljujarvi might cost just a second or third-round pick. That’s a far cry from going fourth-overall in 2016, and that relatively-low valuation created some online controversy.
However, San Jose Hockey Now reached out to two NHL scouts, who agreed with that valuation for Puljujarvi.
One scout agreed with the Sportsnet assertion that the “puck dies on his stick in the offensive zone too often.”
Another noted that while Puljujarvi has a good shot, he questions the winger’s hockey sense.
“The problem with him is that you’re not sure which player you’re getting? The first half, he was pretty effective with McDavid and playing on the top two lines, but he lost himself in the second half. So I don’t know who you’re getting?” the scout mused. “He’s still young and has potential, I see a player, but I just don’t know what’s between his ears and that’s the research you’d have to do.
“He’s showing that he’s a bottom-six player and not a top-six player.”
The scout added of the 6-foot-4 winger: “For a big man with skills, he’s not a real good checker, and he’s not physical at all.”
So if Puljujarvi isn’t scoring, is he helping you? And does he score enough to neglect other areas of his game?
The Finn forward is talented, but a more apt comparison, honestly, might be a better Ryan Donato. The San Jose Sharks took a swing on the offensively-minded Donato in the off-season of 2020, sending out a third-round pick to the Minnesota Wild for the then 24-year-old winger.
Donato didn’t work out with the San Jose Sharks, scoring just six goals in 50 games in 2020-21, but he did find his footing a little with the Seattle Kraken last year, notching 16 goals on a veteran’s minimum contract.
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