Oilers Losing Puljujarvi For 4 Weeks Will Have Ripple Effect on Roster

As reported by TSN’s Jason Gregor and confirmed by the team, the Edmonton Oilers will be without the services of Jesse Puljujarvi for the next three-to-four weeks. Injured at some point during the Oilers’ 7-3 comeback victory over the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night, Puljujarvi left the ice in the second period and didn’t return in the third. It’s not clear what happened, but Oilers’ fans collectively waited for an update on The Bison King throughout Thursday evening and early into Friday morning.

The on-again, off-again Puljujarvi was really always on. His underlying numbers remained strong even when the puck wasn’t going in for him, but of late he’s started to produce on the scoresheet. This is terrible timing for the Oilers who were just starting to roll and their busy schedule isn’t about to do them any favors.

Puljujarvi Was Getting Hot

Expected to pick up from where he finished off last season, the Finnish forward was on his way to setting career highs. With 12 goals and 28 points in 46 games, the 2021-22 campaign was set to be his best (still easily could be) and he was finding chemistry with the top players on the team, really coming into his own as an NHLer. When the Oilers made a coaching change, Puljujarvi was reunited with Connor McDavid quickly scored two goals and three points in the four games.

Jesse Puljujarvi Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As David Staples of The Edmonton Journal writes:

Puljujarvi’s strong play at even strength is reflected in his solid metrics for individual Grade A shots. He was +1.6 per game, an excellent number for a winger, bested only by Evander Kane and Zach Hyman on the Oilers, with Warren Foegele a distant fourth. All that is good for Puljujarvi, but it demonstrates just how much the Oilers will miss him at even strength.

source – ‘Top Edmonton Oilers winger out for a month. What does it mean for team?’ David Staples – Edmonton Journal – 02/18/2022

Not that there’s ever a good time to suffer an injury, this is definitely not the best time for him to go down. When a player is a bit streaky — as young, inexperienced scorers tend to be — riding a wave of production can make a big difference to one’s overall season and their ability to contribute. Puljujarvi will have to get hot again when he returns.

The Oilers Were Getting Hot Too

Puljujarvi wasn’t the only player starting to find his game under new coach Jay Woodcroft. Depth forwards like Derek Ryan, Warren Foegele, and Ryan McLeod were really starting to play a role on this roster and the combination of forwards in their right positions was working. With Puljujarvi out of the lineup now, Woodcroft will have to adjust.

Related: Oilers: 5 Defensemen to Target via Trade

It’s not necessarily as simple as popping a different forward up on the top line with McDavid. One, not everyone can play well with him. Two, while Woodcroft said, “Next man up,” when talking about the loss, whoever the Oilers recall from the Bakersfield Condors (perhaps Cooper Marody) won’t have the ability to play on that line with the same type of success Puljujarvi was having. Not only that, but the 11 forwards and seven defense option Edmonton was running might have to change and that adjustment could have a major impact on the roll the Oilers were on.

Oilers Will Need to Find the Right Mix

What could be huge here are the line combinations Woodcroft chooses to deploy moving forward. It seemed like an obvious decision to move Puljujarvi to the top line. Now, Woodcroft will have to juggle the act of trying to find the best fit without upsetting the apple cart. The solution on Thursday was to bump up McLeod to the second line and Kailer Yamamoto to the top line. We’ll see if that sticks.

Brendan Perlini Edmonton Oilers
Brendan Perlini, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The fill in the depth on the team, do the Oilers call up the player with the most skill and the likely ability to come in and do what Puljujarvi was doing? That could mean going with a scorer and less experienced player: someone like Dylan Holloway or Raphael Lavoie. The issue with that is you bring up someone before they’re potentially ready to be impact players at the NHL level. Maybe Brendan Perlini gets a shot on the top line and picks up some of the scoring touch he had in the preseason. That would be the ideal situation for Edmonton but it’s not a given things work out that way.

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The alternative is shuffling the lines around and the issue there is that these lines were starting to build chemistry and click.

Puljujarvi Was Relentless

What the Oilers will really miss is Puljujarvi’s never-ending desire to be in the play. He wasn’t afraid to stand in front of the net, get his nose a little dirty or hound the opposition on the backcheck. That’s not the easiest skill to instill into players and when the Oilers were struggling — even as Puljujarvi was struggling on a personal production level — he was bringing that element night in and night out.

This injury is going to hurt both literally and figuratively.