It’s crisis time for Puljujarvi Oilers to prove himself in the NHL

Edmonton – “It is.”

This two-word answer describes all that Jesse Poliujarvi stands for this season, as the great Finn’s answer to the question, “Is it time to prove yourself in the NHL?”

“that it.”

Decisive time for the happy right winger lovingly known as “The Bison King” by his fans here in Edmonton. He’s 24 now, six years after the 2016 draft put him fourth overall, ahead of names like Matthew Tkachuk, Alex DeBrinkat, Mikhail Sergechev, Jacob Chicheron and Adam Fox.

Today he is a veteran player who has capped $3 million on a one-year deal, a player who has spent most of the past three seasons on the Edmonton trading block with Ken Holland unable to complete a player-like fair value deal with Puljujarvi. skill set.

But this camp is different for Bologarvi.

He is no longer a child or even a potential child. He is, like any other company, a cash-strapped salary man who needs to justify the percentage of his payroll.

“It changes it a lot,” GM Ken Holland said of the price of the new Puljujarvi when we sat down to get a Q and A in Penticton, BC, last week. “The last two years, it was $1.175 million. Three million? That’s not a lot of money for a top 6 player. But if he’s in our third streak…”

So, who exactly is Jesse Poliojarvi, the enigmatic Finn with a big smile and every instrument in his toolbox — except for perhaps the most important one, the hockey sensation that holds it all together?

Fans (and oilers) are hoping that Valery Neshushkin, the great Russian right winger who traveled in Dallas, returned to Russia, and finally thrived at the age of 26 with a 25-goal season in Colorado.

However, Puljujarvi is still likely to be Alex Galchenyuk, who spent six seasons with the team that drafted him in third (Montreal) and was sent in packages. Today, the 28-year-old is in PTO with Colorado, his seventh NHL organization (twice with Arizona) if he sticks to the Avs.

Or is it Sam Bennett, the fourth overall pick who thrived in Florida at the age of 25, scoring 28 goals in his first full season with his second organization?

The trick to lasting success, says Puljujarvi, is to find lasting confidence.

“I tried to work hard last summer, get back the good confidence, and start from there,” he said on the pre-season podium on Thursday morning. “I think confidence is a big thing. Here in the NHL, you need confidence every day, every game, every game. So yeah, try to be a strong player and play with good confidence. Those are big things.”

Bulgoire made a great start last season with 10 goals and 23 points by Christmas, earning his place in winger Conor McDavid. But in his last 37 games, he scored four goals and 13 points.

To Puljujarvi’s credit, infection or COVID-19 affected his downfall in production. But he finished the season as a 10-minute playoff player per night, devoid of confidence.

“I think that’s fair,” coach Jay Woodcroft said of confirming that Poliojarvi’s confidence had disappeared. “Confidence is not something you necessarily have to start with. It has been earned through a lot of hard work and effort.

“Part of that is that I put him in a position to succeed. Part of that is the work he’s done and over the summer – what I saw today, what I saw on the captain’s skis – I see a very motivated player who has put in a lot of work over time.”

Woodcroft gave Puljujarvi a plum assignment on the first day of camp: a spot on the line with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman. Puljujarvi had a good day in the coach’s eyes.

“He should feel confident as day two approaches,” Woodcroft said. “But as with all of our players here, we need them to improve every day.”

And stay better.

If Puljujarvi can do that, it could still become the best deal Ken Holland has ever done.