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Puljujarvi continuing development at World Championships

Oilers prospect Jesse Puljujarvi is representing Team Finland at the 2017 World Championship in Paris

by Aaron Vickers / Special to EdmontonOilers.com

PARIS, FRANCE - Jesse Puljujarvi's first season in North America was one focused on development.

He's looking to continue that back in Europe.

Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is continuing his season on the international stage via loan from the Edmonton Oilers to Finland's entry at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Paris, France and Cologne Germany from May 5-21.

It has the 19-year-old excited.

"It feels pretty good," Puljujarvi told EdmontonOilers.com. "It's always nice to play National Team games.

"It's nice."

He would know.

Puljujarvi has had plenty of experience with Finland.

Over 80 games, in fact.

And plenty of hardware to show for it.

His international resume includes a silver medal from the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship that saw Puljujarvi record two goals and seven assists in seven games. He also earned double-gold with Finland in 2016, winning out at the IIHF World Junior Championship in January 2016 and the IIHF World Under-18 in April 2016.

At the U18's, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound winger had five goals and seven points in four games and was named to the tournament's all-star team.

His World Juniors effort four months prior was even better.

Puljujarvi had five goals and led the tournament with 12 assists and 17 points. He was named one of Finland's top three players, and earned nominations as both the tournament's best forward and most valuable player.

The performances helped solidify Puljujarvi as a top pick in 2016.

He's hoping another go-round with the National team, this time with increased competition at the men's level, will help solidify himself as an NHL regular next fall.

"Of course," said Puljujarvi, who also turned in a memorable performance at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament when he had three goals and five points in four games. "It's against men. It's always better."

Puljarjvi's first season with the Oilers was a learning experience.

He had one goal in eight points in 28 games with Edmonton, and 12 goals and 28 points and a plus-5 rating in 39 games with the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate after being assigned on Jan. 9.

The assignment was an opportunity for Puljujarvi to further grow into the North American game.  

"It's so fast on the small ice," said Puljujarvi, who was the youngest player to suit up in both the NHL and AHL this season. "It's a big adjustment."

Life on the ice was drastically different for Puljujarvi.

So too was life off it. 

As a teenager, he continued to adapt to a new language, new culture and new expectations.

Another challenge, he admitted.  

"The language is the hardest," said Puljujarvi, who has also represented Finland as a member of an under-13 select team that participated in the Québec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in 2011-12, and on the Finnish entry that won gold at the Mac's Midget AAA tournament in 2013.

"It was tough. Sometimes I'd play good, but it was tough with the new culture.

"It's nice, but sometimes it was a tough year."

Still, Puljujarvi has plenty of optimism going forward.

He has his first year under his belt, complete with first taste of the NHL.

He'll have his first international experience at the men's level with Finland to help him, and his first summer to train with a full understanding of what's to come in the fall.

All that, Puljujarvi knows, will help him heading into his second season with the Oilers.

"It's about coming back more confident," he said.

"I need to come back with more power, more everything."

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