We’re just over a month away from the start of the 2019-20 season, with a new tomorrow inching closer and closer, But, once again before we can move on to tomorrow we have to talk about yesterday today. So let us continue with the 2018-19 reviews, today focusing on the soon-to-be jet-set youth: @Jesse Puljujarvi.

Well, what a year it was for the wide-smiling Finn. He had a good training camp, and looked great during the pre-season, with a lot of hype and expectation for him for the 2018-19 campaign. The thought in some fans’ minds that at best he’d be riding shotgun on the top line with Nuge and Connor, or at worst helping Draisaitl on the second line while he tried to earn his keep as a centreman (remember: there was a time that paying $8.5mil for a winger was UNHEARD OF). Pulu didn’t score until the fourth game of the season, which was understandable considering the team as a whole got off to a rough start. It was against the Winnipeg Jets. It was a third period tally that tied the game (assisted by the aforementioned Nuge and Connor) before @Darnell Nurse eventually won the game in overtime. Jesse Yames was starting to look the part: a fourth-overall gunslinger playing with two of the best players on the roster and scoring at a key point in the game. Things were looking up.

Then the Oilers were okay for the next seven games, going 3-4 over that stretch, but our man was not okay. He did not record a point and was subsequently sent down to the Condors, presumably to work on his game, regain some confidence and find that scoring touch. He would only play four games in the AHL, having relative success until after Coach McLellan’s dismissal, and Ken Hitchcock’s apparent insistence on calling the Finn back up to the NHL to “work on him”:

“Talbot starts tomorrow.” Wow, this piece is already feeling like an artefact. Anyway, Coach Hitch thought he could fix the struggling Puljujarvi, so he was called up and 1:21 into his third game under the Hitchcock regime, he scored his second goal of the season. He would take another ten games to score again, and only continued to struggle for the 35 games he would play under Hitch. Then a lingering hip injury placed him on the IR, derailing his already miserable season, eventually leading him to be shutdown for good in February, electing for surgery.

Here are his final numbers in both leagues this the season:

NHL Stats

46 4 5 9 11:57 53 7.5 20:31 1

AHL Stats

GP G A P S SH% +/-
4 2 2 4 17 11.8 +2

Weirdly, the AHL doesn’t disclose TOI stats, so your guess is as good as mine as to how much Jesse played during his four-game stint. But, it’s clear that he was having success, with a decent amount of shots and a respectable shooting percentage.

So, if we look deeper how bad did it get once Pulu was back up with the big club.

Even Strength TOI: 527:54

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
45.95 34.15 46.38 78/99 44.07 8/15 34.78 6.19 .897 .959 51.91

Well, what did we really expect to see here? Nothing special whatsoever: not enough Corsi chances going towards the other team’s net, hardy any goals being generated and the goalie’s either being hung out to dry or just letting the team down. For a guy who seemingly was never put in a position to succeed, he received a disproportionate amount of ES offensive zone starts compared to the top stars on the roster, and still found the puck going back the other way down the ice.

But, it’s all relative. The criticism on the coaching staff all year was that Pulu was never put with any linemates who could help unlock his full potential.

So, let’s look how he performed compared to the rest of the team.

CF/60Rel CA/60Rel CF%Rel GF%Rel SCF/60Rel HDCF%Rel HDGF%
-6.28 -0.84 -2.68 -0.93 -2.33 -2.38 -12.94

As I’ve mentioned in other pieces through this season in review series, it’s a bit trivial to compare how a player performed offensively on a team that finished 20th in the league in goals for, and considering how poor the team’s secondary scoring was this year, it’s actually


Along with the criticism on the coaching staff– whether it was under Hitch or McLellan– regarding Jesse’s linemates, came the lack of ice time he was getting per game, further distancing him from a position to succeed.

So, let’s take a look at Jesse’s closest contemporaries in terms of TOI/GM and how they produced (Minimum 40 Games Played):

@Andrew Copp 69 12:10 25
@Tage Thompson 65 12:08 12
@Chandler Stephenson 64 12:07 11
@Victor Rask 49 12:06 9
@Michael Rasmussen 62 12:05 18
@Cedric Paquette 80 12:00 17
@Henrik Borgstrom 50 12:00 18
@Marcus Foligno 82 11:58 19
@Daniel Sprong 63 11:57 23
@Valeri Nichushkin 57 11:55 10
@Yannick Weber 62 11:55 8
@Dale Weise 51 11:47 11

Now, I know what the main takeaway here is: those are a lot of names that I would never expect to see. But, if you’re Pulu and you look up and take a look to see who’s standing around you while munching on some delicious ‘za and you see these dudes there: the guy you’ve never heard of who was traded for the 2018-19 Conn Smythe and Selke Trophies, and the one who was on the loser end of one of the worst trades in recent NHL history, and other bottom-six forwards you’re probably going to spit your pepperoni out in frustrated disgust. Pulu’s production was projected for 16 points over a full 82-game season, so based on the ice-time this is exactly where he belongs.

Yeesh. That’s not good.

Okay, he was deployed with bad teammates and did the best with the ice time that he was given. So the question that has to be asked: who were the bums on this team that stifled the talent out of sweet Jesse?

Well, here are the answers;

(All counts at Even Strength)

w/ @Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

ES TOI Together: 245:10

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
42.82 42.86 46.67 38/49 43.68 7/8 46.67 13.33 .868 1.001 42.68

Wow, really? How unfair. THIS is the guy that Jesse got to play with the most?? Unbelievable.

w/ @Jujhar Khaira

ES TOI Together: 158:16

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
47.60 33.33 51.24 25/28 47.17 4/4 50.00 7.94 .861 .940 46.88

Another player plagued with injuries throughout the 2018-19 campaign, but despite the low o-zone starts they still created a decent amount of quality chances together. Low shooting percentage was likely the culprit for the low goal output, but what else is new with anyone fourth or lower on the Oilers scoring list?

w/ @Milan Lucic

ES TOI: 126:45

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
48.51 60.00 49.45 18/15 54.55 2/0 100.00 6.82 .960 1.028 50.00

Well, these are actually surprising numbers. While Jesse is forcing his way out of Edmonton, Lucic is being not-so-subtly pushed out the door by the fanbase. And for a player who plays the antithesis of Jesse’s game, these two made the very best of their opportunities and did the most important thing: scored goals. Sometimes opposites attract.

w/ @Leon Draisaitl

ES TOI Together: 74:52

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
44.37 28.57 43.08 12/18 40.00 1/3 25/00 4.55 .875 .920 44.74

How weird is this? Dominates with a guy who fans are ready to pay the Uber fare to see that he gets to YEG and his flight to Vancouver on time, but struggles with the fourth-highest scoring player in the NHL. The shooting percentage is atrocious, and both ends of the ice suffered with these two together. I don’t know how to explain this. The o-zone starts are clearly the common denominator here: anytime he’s consistently starting in the neutral or defensive zones, the play goes the other way.

w/ @Ryan Strome

ES TOI: 68:52

CF% GF% SCF% HDCF/CA HDCF% HDGF/GA HDGF% On-Ice SH% On-Ice SV% PDO Off.Zone Start %
57.76 0.00 55.56 12/8 60.00 0/1 0.00 0.00 .966 .966 57.14

This is kicking a dead horse, but as bad as it might have been to trade Jordan Eberle for Strome, it was worse to flip Strome for Ryan Spooner. Though they didn’t score any goals during their brief time together, Pulu and Strome seemed to have some good chemistry together. Yes, they had an exaggerated amount of o-zone starts– and this is another consistent factor– but they made the most of the opportunities and maintained possession, creating quality scoring chances. The goals-for percentage looks bleak, but only one was scored against them.

Final Thought

Would you just look at those two: so much hope, so much promise; Jesse fresh-faced and smiling, Todd McLellan’s hair still looking like Michael Clayton-era Clooney, rather than Catch-22-era Clooney. Doesn’t this picture just feel sad now? Coach McLellan’s in the City of Angels and  who knows where Pulu will suit up for the 2019-20 season, but it will most definitely not be in Edmonton.

So what happened? This is probably going to be a debate that will last in comment sections and in bars for years. It’s what happens when a fourth-overall pick crashes and burns. But sometimes a fourth-overall isn’t always a fourth-overall pick. Remember that Jarmo Kekalainen, a Finnish GM, passed on Young Jesse in the draft. That should’ve been telling. But even so, Pulu was expected to step right in and start scoring from day one of the 2016-17 season. Mismanagement of an asset? Most likely. It’s not hard to blame any decision that was made during the Chiarelli era. But some responsibly has to fall on a player with that sort of draft pedigree. Puljujarvi succeeded in the situations that a raw prospect should be put in: whenever put in more offensive zone starts, he created chances and when he started in defensive and neutral zones, the puck turned around. But getting chances with the top line means having to work in those situations. He got some chances with the top players, but didn’t play well with them, but he didn’t get enough time with them, but he shouldn’t be just gifted that time, but then he shouldn’t have been burdened with those expectations from the start… There’s no right answer. This sort of thing can go back and forth until the beers are done at the bar, last call’s over, and the ugly lights come on.

It’s unfortunate, but after three years the thing that a fourth overall pick will be most remembered for with be for eating pizza in the background during a post-game interview. No matter whose fault that is, it’s still a failure.

Traditional stats courtesy of                                                                                                                                                                   Advanced stats courtesy of