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FEATURE: Puljujarvi has big night

Jesse Puljujarvi had a big night in the Oilers pre-season win over the Winnipeg Jets, scoring two goals and adding an assist

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

EDMONTON, AB - You couldn't have scripted it much better.

Jesse Puljujarvi spoke Saturday morning about wanting to better his performance from the one he had in his first pre-season game against Calgary.

Video: WPG@EDM: Puljujarvi chips home a loose puck for a PPG

"I can be better (at everything)," the Finnish winger said. "I can be faster, a better passer and I have to shoot and score."

Puljujarvi was taken fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. His up-and-down rookie season saw him score just one goal and record eight points in 28 NHL games. It hasn't been the easiest adjustment to North America for the 19 year-old, who struggles with the English language - but he's working on it.

"My Finnish is better than my English," Puljujarvi put bluntly this morning.

But when it came to his post-game interview with the media Saturday night, Puljujarvi declined an offer to translate from Jussi Jokinen. He wanted to give it a go.

"Last year I talked a lot about Jesse's adjustment, us bringing him along, the language, the culture, being 18, all those types of things," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's beyond that now and he can handle himself. I'm glad that he pushed Jussi aside and said 'no, I can do this.' He's accepting more responsibility that way, even with his positional play. There's a little more responsibility in it this year to this point.

Video: WPG@EDM: Puljujarvi nets his 2nd on fortunate bounce

"I thought the first night he played he could have left the night with a couple goals… he had some good shooting opportunities, they just didn't go in. Tonight he got rewarded. It's nice to see him respond that way."

His Saturday response was to the tune of two goals, one on the power play, and a pretty assist in a 6-2 whooping of the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. McLellan bumped up the sophomore to play with Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon on the top line during the game.

"He's still trying to find his game, I think," Maroon said. "He's still trying to get used to the flow. He's young still. For me, as a veteran, I just try to tell him to just go out there and have fun, don't overthink anything. When you overthink things, it just starts going not your way so play your game and just have fun out there and just enjoy it. This is a fun time to enjoy it. He played a really good third period for us tonight."

All the tools are there, says Maroon.

"He's big, he's strong, he's got a really good shot, he sees the ice really well," he said. "He's starting to find the dirty areas and go to the dirty areas and find the greasy goals because… it's hard to score from the outside now unless you've got a really good shot. You've got to find ways to get second and third opportunities in this league and get the dirty goals. He did that tonight. He found ways to get in front of the net and get greasy rebounds. Hopefully, he can build off this game into the next game and get some confidence as the pre-season goes on."

Puljujarvi flashed Saturday what made him a prized pick-up at the draft, and his most recent pre-season performance has him ready to show more.

"It was my second game, now more are coming," he said. "I feel confidence more."

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