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McKenzie: Oilers’ Puljujarvi ‘still a blue-chip prospect’

Chris Nichols



(Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

Jesse Puljujarvi has been scratched by the Oilers from five of the past seven games, and has only played in 22 of the team’s 31 affairs.

The rookie has collected one goal and seven assists in those contests, averaging 11:57 per game.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson wonders if the schedule may line up to have the first-year winger play a brief stint in the AHL and then rejoin the big club in time for the Christmas break.

“Everything’s on the table and has been since Day 1,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “Right now we’ll try to get him healthy and confident and see where we go.”

Puljujarvi has what’s deemed to be a minor injury.

So will there be a trip to the minors coming for the No. 4 overall pick from June’s draft?

“It’s a good question and I don’t have the answer to that question,” began NHL Insider Bob McKenzie while on Edmonton’s TSN 1260 Monday. “But it wouldn’t surprise me. If you’re not playing, you’ve got to at some point – whatever age you are, 18 or 19 years old – you’ve got to be developing.

“There’s certainly merit in having a player around practicing with the NHL team and being around the NHL team, and there’s a certain value in that, but not if for an extended period of time you’re not seeing any game action. You’ve got to play games when you’re younger. Whether that’s in the NHL or the AHL, that’s something that Pete Chiarelli and Todd McLellan are going to have to sort here, I would think.

“And yeah, some people would say, ‘Yeah, why not send him to the world juniors?’ But I think there’s probably a feeling in the Edmonton organization – and probably with Puljujarvi too – ‘Been there, done that.’ As you point out, he’s already played the world juniors twice. And he probably wasn’t real thrilled that he didn’t get to play for Finland at the World Cup, where a lot of people thought that he should have. Although based on how his season started in the NHL, some people would say maybe the Finns were right for not having him on the team. I don’t know.

“You know what? And I would caution any fan in Edmonton who’s getting frustrated because he’s not maybe made the immediate impact a lot of people thought he was going to make. He’s still a blue-chip prospect and some guys take a little longer to adjust and find their range in the NHL. I don’t think there’s any question Puljujarvi is going to be a real good pick and I would be surprised if, years from now, the Oilers fans aren’t still really excited he fell to 4 for them.”

There should be little doubt in the minds of Oilers fans that Puljujarvi will be a gem before all is said and done in his NHL career.

There was, incidentally, another Edmonton-related note on the Insider beat Monday.

Pierre LeBrun was on Vancouver’s TSN 1040 when he was asked if the Oilers would be searching for defensive help now that Darnell Nurse will be on the shelf for up to 12 weeks following surgery on his right ankle to repair bone and ligament damage.

“Well, the thing is they’re going to get him back, so it’s not like you can take his salary,” noted LeBrun. “He’s going to come back and you’ll have to put him under the cap.

“But I think Peter Chiarelli wanted to – he’s made so many changes to this team over the past year and a half, I think he really wanted to give this team a good, long here into the season before he decided what his next move was.

“I will tell you this – if they don’t find more consistency defensively, certainly over the next month, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s an area they looked again,  yes.”

The Oilers should have both Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba closer to being available for game action as well.

The NHL holiday trade freeze will go into effect Dec. 19 through Dec. 27.

Source: Edmonton Journal, TSN 1260, TSN 1040

For reference: Covering the Insiders

NHL Insiders. 17-year digital media hockey career includes a combined decade online with Sportsnet and ESPN.