It seems that the great opportunity of Jesse Puljujarvi is to go.
The Finnish extreme skidded with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the second consecutive day on Friday, which means it's not just something the Edmonton Oilers were experimenting with in practice.
"He practiced there for two days, there's no reason not to throw him there," said coach Ken Hitchcock, who is transforming Puljujarvi into a pet project that could yield huge dividends for the organization if he can turn it into power. forward they need.
"I like what he does. I know there is some growth that has yet to happen, but you look at it in the power play (Thursday) and it seemed overwhelmed; you look at it (Friday) and it looked like it was comfortable. We just have to go through these stages of growth. "
It's a big call from a kid, rising to the front row in a Tampa Bay Lightning clash, but Hitchcock says he is confident that the usual problems associated with a young and emerging player will gain time on the ice – giving up too much on the other. way – will not be a problem in this case.
"We do not have to get him to speed up work, skating-wise or check-wise, he's already there," Hitchcock said. "He can play in the league at a high level when the other team has the disc. I'm trying to get him to accelerate when we have the disk, so why not play it with good players?
"He's not going to hurt us defensively. He is competitive as hell, he has a great conscience, now let's see if we get the offensive part of his game. Let's see what he can do.
Puljujarvi has spent 19 games in the front row with McDavid and Milan Lucic last season but he seems to be in a different place this time around. More confident, more comfortable and more ready to take the next step in an evolution that people have been waiting for since the day that Edmonton took him fourth overall overall in 2016.
"There's no reason he's not in the top six in the front of the NHL," Hitchcock said. "If he can do it right away, I do not know, but I know I can now play him as a top nine anywhere and I feel comfortable doing things right when the game is on the line." This is a good starting point for a young player. "
Nugent-Hopkins definitely sees a more relaxed Puljujarvi who was feeling a bit lost in the past while fighting in a difficult battle to live up to his draft-day potential.
"I see him getting (his confidence) back now," he said. "It's a big part of the game and if you do not have it, it can be difficult." But he is starting to get it back and feel good about his game. really good for us and it's happening lately.
"He has this long step and when he can, he can definitely fly. And he has big body, so when he's going, it's hard to stop. In the last two weeks he has used it to his advantage much better. "
McDavid likes the possibility here with a line that features an excellent two-way player in Nugent-Hopkins and a big guy with a great shot in Puljujarvi.
"He's a strong, powerful guy," McDavid said. "He definitely has a good chance. He scored on all levels he's been on. He did not have many goals in the NHL, but it's not because of his chance. If he can take it off and it is usually very dangerous.
MORE LIKE KOSKI-NOT-IN
To say that Mikko Koskinen is doing better than expected since joining Edmonton after six years on KHL is a very massive understatement at the moment, and it's just getting bigger.
Koskinen entered the second NHL game on Saturday against goals (2.18), third save percentage (0.928) and second on shutouts (3)
Questions about whether he was the best goalkeeper in Edmonton are evolving to know if he is one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
"I had no expectations, I just tried to play per game and practice practice," said the Finn of 1.80 m. "You can not start thinking about the future or what your expectations are; This will not help you. You just have to do your job every day and be prepared every day, that's all that matters. "
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