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The concept of the player, his agent, the Oilers’ GM and the Oilers’ coach all being on the same page is welcome news indeed in a long-running saga that has all too often seen at least one of the four losing the plot. It certainly helps that Edmonton has changed out both key positions since the player last played in the organization, with Ken Holland taking over the GM’s office and Dave Tippett in the coach’s room.
As has been thoroughly documented on this site and many others, the odyssey of J.P. has taken many twists and turns since the talented Finn was drafted at #4 overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, this after being named the MVP of the 2016 World Junior Championships, a rare honour for a 17-year-old. He was the standout player on a great Finnish squad that featured high-scoring forwards like Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, Kasperi Kapanen and Mikko Rantanen.
The long-held view of this writer is that the original sin of both camps was the belief that the talented youngster was NHL-ready from the beginning. Puljujarvi was signed to an Entry Level Contract that summer, with all evidence suggesting promises were made and subsequently kept that he would be on the NHL roster for at least the 40 games required to vest his first year towards eventual free agency rights.
The raw 18-year-old scored a goal in his first NHL game but didn’t light the lamp again in his rookie season while struggling to find a role on a team that found itself in a playoff race for the first time in a decade. Puljujarvi spent more and more time in the press box, and when he did get in the line-up played under 10 minutes in 7 of his last 9 games. He played just 3:27 in his last appearance, not coincidentally Edmonton’s 40th game of the season. The next day he found himself on a plane to Bakersfield, where he finished up the season with 12 goals and 16 assists in 39 games, respectable numbers for a teenager in the AHL. (Translates to 29 points in 82 games in the NHL.)