CHICAGO — When the Edmonton Oilers open training camp next week, the fourth overall pick from the 2016 draft won’t be there with them.
Over the summer, Jesse Puljujarvi‘s agent made it clear that if the Oilers didn’t trade him before the season he would sign in Europe. And on August 27, that’s exactly what happened when Puljujarvi inked a deal with Oulun Kärpät of Finland’s Liiga, which includes an out clause that would allow him to return to the NHL before Dec. 1.
Fellow Oiler Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is making the rounds at NHL Media Day in Chicago this week — and though he hasn’t talked to Puljujarvi lately, admitting that maybe he should — he knows Puljujarvi’s transition to the NHL has been bumpy.
“There’s obvious frustration, but I mean as a young player — I’ve been with the Oilers as a young player — there’s going to be frustration pretty much any team you play for,” Nugent-Hopkins told the 31 Thoughts podcast Thursday.
“It’s not always you’re going to play the top-line minutes at all times. I know Jesse, he’s been a little frustrated. I’m not going to say whose fault it is — whether he’s right, whether he’s wrong — I know what Jesse’s capable of.”
So far in Finland, Puljujarvi is off to a great start in Champions League play, with a goal and two assists in three games. Nugent-Hopkins said it is key for Puljujarvi to find confidence in order to return to the NHL and be successful. If he does that, Nugent-Hopkins thinks there’s a lot more to come.
“He’s a very, very talented player. He’s a big kid, he’s got everything you need,” Nugent-Hopkins said.
“I think he can get down on himself a little bit too much. Confidence is a huge thing in the game and sometimes I’ve seen his confidence kind of goes away if he’s not playing his game or the best game he feels he can play. But I know what he’s capable of.
“It’s too bad to see it going down this path because I think he’d be a great guy for us and a guy we could use a lot.”
In the three years since he was drafted, Puljujarvi wasn’t able to stick with the Oilers for a full season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he played 65 games, scoring 12 goals and 20 points.
Listen to the full interview in an upcoming episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast