EDMONTON, AB - When asked about Jesse Puljujarvi at a hot stove event with Oilers Season Seat Holders on Thursday night, General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland said he's prepared to allow the 21-year-old time to further adjust his game after experiencing some adversity in his first three NHL seasons.
The Oilers fourth-overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft has recorded 37 points (17G, 20A) in 119 games with the NHL squad, adding a further 15 goals and 22 assists in 53 games in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors, and being forced to miss the final 19 games of the 2018-19 season in Edmonton due to season-ending hip surgery.
"I was on a radio show with Bob McCown at the [Draft] Lottery and Bob said to me, 'What's the hardest part about evaluating players for the Draft?' and I said trying to figure out how they're going to deal with adversity, because most of the players we're seeing at the age of 18 have had success," Holland said. "That's why they're in the Draft. They're the head of the class of their peer group, so adversity lies ahead and how they're going to deal with adversity and how the organization and the people are going to deal with adversity."
A new general manager and head coach in the fold has Holland bullish on a rebound for Puljujarvi, and the pair are ready to stay the course with their young Finnish forward.
"Jesse was obviously a player at fourth overall, an incredibly talented player, and he wakes up three years later at the age of 21 and the career hasn't gone the way everybody has expected it to go. We just have to stick with it," Holland said. "[Head Coach Dave Tippett] and I were talking about it yesterday, and Jesse was here yesterday. I spent about an hour with him talking.
"With Jesse, he's had lots of adversity and I'm hoping with a new general manager and a new head coach, being a little bit older, he's 21 and not 18 or 19, that we can get him in the lineup on an every-night basis and he can find some chemistry with some players and earn the coaches trust and become more and more important as we go forward."
Further progression for the forward begins with knowing he has a place in the lineup and developing by prioritizing incremental gains and chemistry with linemates, said Holland.
"You have to come to the rink every day and know your jersey is hanging," he said. "You're in the lineup. That's step one. What you do to be in the lineup, then you start to find chemistry with some players whether you're on the third line or fourth line, and you slowly work your way up the ladder to being more important.
"I think that's really hard for young players to understand, because as we go to the 2019 Draft here in [nine] days, we just had the Combine, all those players think they're going to be on the first or second line the next year or year after, and the reality is it can happen but it's not going to happen that quick. They're going to have some adversity along the way, and they have to learn how to deal with the adversity."