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The Future of Jesse Puljujarvi

Jesse Puljujarvi creates plenty of debate among fans and media, and while at first glance his offensive numbers weren't anything to write home about, he makes a clear impact in the Oilers lineup.

The locker room is empty, the exit interviews have been conducted, and Jay Woodcroft and Ken Holland have met with the media one last time. 

For the Oilers, the process begins with retooling and trying to improve upon a season that saw them have their deepest playoff run since 2006. Progress, for sure, but just short of a goal they came so close to achieving. 

One of the biggest focuses for the Oilers this summer? The future of Jesse Puljujarvi. He brings value, but is it enough to keep investing in him?

Everyone has a take on the 24-year-old Finnish forward. Some love his play and what he brings, while others feel he hasn't been producing enough, isn't a top-six forward, and should be traded this summer.

When you look at the advanced stats, there's incredible value in his game that you cannot ignore from this past season.

Puljujarvi was consistently one of the Oilers' better defensive forwards and put in plenty of work to generate scoring chances when he was on the ice.

Let's get into a little more about his effectiveness on the Oilers roster. In all situations, his individual 91 high-danger chances in all situations during the regular season were fifth-most among skaters on the team. When it came to the percentage of total goals while on ice, his mark of 64.56 percent was a team high, according to Natural Stat Trick. Turnovers were also rare for Puljujarvi, as he had 17 giveaways during the season at 5-on-5. During the playoffs, his individual expected goals for stat at 2.46, a higher number than Zack Kassian and Ryan McLeod. In his limited playoff minutes at 5-on-5, Puljujarvi generated a high-danger chance advantage of 42-25. 

The biggest issue, though, is his inconsistent play. His 8.8 shooting percentage is far from ideal. Sure, he missed time due to injuries and illness, and had he played close to the entire 82-game regular season, he would have been on pace to cross the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career. An uptick in shooting percentage wouldn't hurt, either.

"He never lost the belief of his teammates or his coaching staff," Woodcroft said. "I thought he had some good moments and scored a couple of big goals for us, one in the LA series and one in the Calgary series. He's a good young player."

Holland's approach to Puljujarvi isn't as straightforward as his "that's what I've got to sort out" reply regarding Puljujarvi's future. Those words didn't project the image of confidence that Holland sees him in the franchise's long-term plans. If you trade Puljujarvi, who's his replacement? Does Holland have enough trust in his prospect farm?

Puljujarvi was a defensive rock and consistently got pucks to the net when playing with Connor McDavid and Evander Kane, so it's hard to believe they'd get suitable value for him. Holland's priority should be moving on from the contracts of Zack Kassian or Tyson Barrie instead of Puljujarvi, but that's much easier said than done.

We'll have to wait and see if there's a deal for the soon-to-be restricted free agent. But if Puljujarvi can stay healthy, the Oilers are better for it.


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