McKenzie: ‘I’m not prepared just yet to write Jesse Puljujarvi off’

What will the Edmonton Oilers decide to do with Jesse Puljujarvi?

The developmental progress of the fourth overall selection from the 2016 draft was the subject of one of the reader questions in the latest edition of the TSN Hockey Bobcast for Insider Bob McKenzie, which was released Friday afternoon.

Part of the question related to the Columbus Blue Jackets taking Pierre-Luc Dubois over Puljujarvi at that draft, when Puljujarvi would have largely been the consensus pick in that No. 3 slot.

McKenzie fielded that query, and then pivoted to the Oilers angle of the situation.

“I’m not prepared just yet to write Jesse Puljujarvi off as a National Hockey League player,” noted McKenzie. “And I realize his body of work so far has not been impressive. This situation in Edmonton looks like it may be coming to a head.

“I think over his first two years on his entry-level contract, Puljujarvi has made some strides and there has been obviously time in the American Hockey League there. But I think last year, mostly in the NHL, he started to make some strides with the Oilers and I think they started to see some progress from him.

“But right off the hop this year - he had a great preseason, but he hasn’t been able to nail down a regular spot in the lineup and when he does play, it’s often on the third or - in the most recent game - the fourth line. There’s been much speculation that he’s on the verge of being sent to the American Hockey League to try and get his confidence back.

“I think Puljujarvi is getting frustrated. I think the Oilers are getting frustrated. And I think the situation, quite likely sooner rather than later, may be coming to a head.

“I talked about this on Edmonton radio this morning. The Oilers would say, ‘Listen Jesse, play better and you’ll get more ice time.’ And Puljujarvi would probably counter that by saying, ‘Hey, show some confidence in me and play me more minutes and more quality minutes and I’ll respond.’ And it’s one of those catch-22s that goes back and forth.

“In any case, if the Oilers think that sending Puljujarvi to the minors is best for his development, that’s their call and he’s contractually-obligated to report to the minors. But I also think that if he is assigned to the minors on anything other than a short term temporary basis, I could see the player or the agent maybe balking a little and saying, ‘Hey listen, it’s not working out here. You’re not happy with me, I’m not happy with you. Let’s do what’s best for everybody and move on.’

“Now I don’t believe that trade request has been positioned at all to this point in time. But I guess what I’m saying is if Puljujarvi is destined to go back to Bakersfield, I wouldn’t be surprised if something along those lines were to transpire.

“So it’s certainly a situation to keep an eye on.”

Puljujarvi is in the final season of his entry-level contract.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly