The Oilers had no idea what to do with the No. 4 pick in the NHL draft — until highly-touted right winger Jesse Puljujarvi fell into their laps.
BUFFALO – Despite not winning the NHL draft lottery and missing out on the No. 1 pick, the Edmonton Oilers showed they still have a bit of luck when it comes to the draft.
On Friday, that luck came in the form of high-touted right winger Jesse Puljujarvi slipping to the Oilers at the No. 4 pick. Puljujarvi was the consensus No. 3 player in the draft, and in fact at one point ranked No. 2 by International Scouting Services. But the Blue Jackets surprised everyone by taking left winger Pierre-Luc Dubois at No. 3.
That left the Oilers with a no doubter when their turn came – and snuffed out any ideas of trading the pick. In Puljujarvi the Oilers have a potentially elite two-way winger who can ride shotgun with Connor McDavid for the next decade.
Despite falling to No. 4, the opportunity to play with McDavid was not lost on Puljujarvi.
“I like Edmonton, and I’ve very excited to go there, and I’m very happy now,” Puljujarvi said. “I want to play with him [McDavid]. . . they have a very young team, and that’s I think very good.”
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli made it known months ago that the No. 4 pick could be had in a trade. It’s also no secret that the Oilers want to acquire a top-four D-man this off-season. When the P.K. Subban rumors started intensifying this week, the Oilers were rumored to be at the center of those talks.
The issue for the Oilers appeared to be that there was no sure things waiting at pick No. 4. The thinking was they could nab Dubois themselves there, or winger Matthew Tkachuk, or take a much-needed defenseman. The surprise pick at No. 3 made all that speculation moot, and Puljujarvi the automatic next pick.
“I feel a little fortunate because we had him rated higher,” Chiarelli said. “We have a lot of centermen, so to have a winger is nice.
While the Oilers will be thrilled to have Puljujarvi, his selection doesn’t exactly mean Chiarelli can now sit on his hands. The Oilers still need that defenseman, and they still have a number of young players who could use a change of scenery.
The likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, and Jordan Eberle remain very much on the trade block. They can be used as trade bait in the search for a D-man, and having Puljujarvi to slot into one of their spots up front next season will make it easier to part with them.
Puljujarvi was named the MVP of the world juniors after leading the tournament in scoring, and helping Finland to a gold medal on home ice. He’s described as a 200-foot play maker who won’t have the same offensive output at the NHL level as fellow Finn Patrik Laine. But his two-way play is something the Oilers could use, and if he does indeed play with McDavid, the points will come.
“I think he’ll be ready to play,” Chiarelli said. “You don’t accomplish what he’s accomplished at the men’s level and international level without being a really good player.”