How far and fast Jesse Puljujarvi has come, starting with McDavid and Draisaitl against Montreal Canadiens

How far and fast Jesse Puljujarvi has come, starting with McDavid and Draisaitl against Montreal Canadiens

Author of the article:

David Staples  •  Edmonton Journal

Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated by his teammate Connor McDavid #97 after scoring his second goal of the game against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in Game 3 of the Western Conference Qualification Round at Rogers Place on August 05, 2020.
Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers is congratulated by his teammate Connor McDavid #97 after scoring his second goal of the game against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in Game 3 of the Western Conference Qualification Round at Rogers Place on August 05, 2020. Photo by Jeff Vinnick /Getty Images

Game Day 35, Oilers vs Habs

This in from Oilers play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels, Edmonton’s starting units for todays’s game against Montreal:

Draisaitl-McDavid-Puljujarvi
Kahun-RNH-Archibald
Ennis-Haas-Kassian
Shore-Khaira-Chiasson

Nurse-Barrie
Lagesson-Larsson
K. Russell-Bear

Smith

1. Jesse Puljujarvi has come far and fast this year. Heading into the year the hope was that he could provide solid two-way hockey on a third line. But his two-way game has been so strong that he’s now a lock to play on one of the top two lines each game. The cherry on top is that with Kailer Yamamoto out with injury, Puljujarvi is now on the Power Line with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Impressive. But he’s earned it.

2. At the Cult of Hockey we rate players, in part, by how they do on a key aspect of the game, making key shots, passes, screens and winning battles that directly contribute to Grade A chances for. We also review videotape to count up the lost battles, turnovers, missed assignments and other issues that directly contribute to Grade A chances against. When it comes to Oilers wingers, Puljujarvi has the best ratio of positive-to-negative contributions, even better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Yamamoto.

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3. This summer I argued it would be a good idea to try Puljujarvi with McDavid based on their past success together. I became even more convinced that Puljujarvi would have some NHL success after watching him in Finland in the fall. He was just so big, fast, skilled and confident, like an aircraft carrier cruising up and down the ice, dominating the battle theatre. At that time I wrote that the 22-year-old Puljujarvi was fairly swaggering with confidence on the ice,  glowing with purpose, shining like a well-cut diamond, a most welcome sight. Yes, my praise of the player was effusive. But could he translate that to the NHL? No one could be certain until he actually did it. Puljujarvi was inconsistent in his early games in Edmonton this winter. He wasn’t helped by playing with a struggling Kyle Turris, but he’s now put together a run of solid games. Suddenly the player who looked like he might be the biggest bust of the 2016 draft is looking like he deserved to be taken 4th overall. 

4. The one big issue? Puljujarvi still is not putting up a lot of even strength points yet. Out of the 422 NHL forwards who have played at least 100 even strength minutes this year, Puljujarvi ranks just 270th with only 1.37 points per 60. By comparison, McDavid ranks 3rd overall, 3.72 pts. per 60, Draisaitl ranks 15th, 3.1 per 60, Jujhar Khaira ranks 108th, 2.16 per 60, Kailer Yamamoto, 156th rank, 1.87 per 60; Tyler Ennis 167th, 1.81 per 60, Devin Shore, 188th, 1.71 per 60, Zack Kassian, 223rd, 1.54 per 60, Dominik Kahun, 225th, 1.53 per 60, James Neal, 251st, 1.42 per 60, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 283rd, 1.33 per 60.

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5. The good news is that Puljujarvi is getting off a lot of shots on net, 0.94 per 60, which ranks 47th out of those same regular 422 forwards. Part of what has kept his point total low is bad puck luck. He could also use a bit of work on his shot but the goals will come if he keeps up that high volume shooting.

6. Puljujarvi has made 77 major contributions to Grade A chances this year but he’s been rewarded with just 13 points. He’s gotten points on just 16.9 per cent of the chances where he’s made some key play. That’s one of the lowest rates on the team, so he’s undervalued if you just go by his raw points total. Compare that to McDavid with 60 points out of 190 contributions to Grade A chances, a 31.6 per cent rate. Or Tyson Barrie with a frankly unsustainable 30 points on 57 contributions, 52.6 per cent, or Darnell Nurse, 25 points on 41 major contributions, 61 per cent. I’m going suggest Nurse and Barrie have seriously inflated point totals right now based on their actual major contributions to Grade A chances.

7. It makes sense that defencemen who play the power play are going to pick up some cheap assists, but Barrie and Nurse are setting a high bar on that. For example, last year Oscar Klefbom, who led the NHL’s most deadly power play, had 87 major contributions and 34 points, 39.1 per cent. He got some cheapie second assists too, but not at the high rate of Barrie and Nurse. By the way, I’m not trying to make a big deal out of this. Barrie and Nurse are good offensive d-men. Barrie is very good, in fact. But he’s also got some cheapie points this year.

At the Cult

STAPLES: Oilers sign prospect Kesselring, ranked highly by Cult of Hockey

STAPLES: Less than glowing report about Broberg out of Sweden

LEAVINS: Oilers are looking out for No. 1

McCURDY: Oilers come-from-behind win lead to sweep of high-flying Jets

LEAVINS: Oilers blow out the Flames

STAPLES: 10 Things to celebrate about the Oilers

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