Edmonton Oilers: Puljujarvi and Yamamoto Add Fire Power to the Condors

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Jesse Puljujarvi #98 of the Edmonton Oilers is all smiles after a goal against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 2, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 2: Jesse Puljujarvi #98 of the Edmonton Oilers is all smiles after a goal against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 2, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Edmonton Oilers finally did the right thing and sent 20-year-old forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to their minor league affiliate in Bakersfield, CA.

Edmonton Oilers: Yesterday, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli had an avail with the local media in Edmonton, and for the most part the line of questioning covered the sending down of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto to the Oilers’ minor league team, the Bakersfield Condors.

"“Broadly speaking, I’d like them to get more touches,”"

This was the first remark that Chiarelli made regarding the transaction, and I get what he’s saying. For these two young players to gain confidence in the NHL, they’re going to need more time on the puck, and if their teammates don’t trust them with the puck, well, they’re not going to get it. Plus, if and when they do receive the puck, and they make poor decisions with it, like giving it back to the opposition or wasting a shot into the crest of the other team’s goalie, that’s not going to please their coaches either.

Jesse Puljujarvi

"“It’s about getting his confidence back. I thought he had a strong camp and it didn’t translate to start. You could see some of the frustration in his game but having said that, there was some maturity in his game, too. We just have to build it up a bit. It’s easier to do down there with more minutes and margin of error.”"

Jesse Puljujarvi has had a turbulent time since he joined the Oilers. I think I’m not the only one that had dreams of another Kurri/Gretzky pairing when he fell to the Oilers in 2016 but that just hasn’t been the case to date.

What I see with this young man are frustration and confusion. I’m not sure if the coaches have ever given him a defined role on the club and I think he wants to score so badly that he’s gripping his stick way too tightly.

The problem is, his coach doesn’t trust him and therefore will only play him on the 3rd line with Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome, players that aren’t famous for their playmaking abilities. He also gets punished by the top-two centers on the club for his positional awareness or lack thereof, and so they don’t trust him.

In 31:58 minutes of 5×5 ice time, Puljujarvi’s Corsi For % when played with Leon Draisaitl is 35%. That is downright wretched, but when he’s away from Leon, it’s 55%. That is quite good.

When the big Finn plays with Connor McDavid 5×5, his CF% is 58% and when away from him it is 49%. Hard to fault him there. Connor is who he is, right? But when McDavid is away from Puljujarvi, his CF% only drops to 52.84%. This is in 7:46 of ice time though, so it’s not a great idea to draw too many conclusions from this evidence.

Stats courtesy of naturalstattrick.com

Kailer Yamamoto

"“I thought he played pretty well as a complementary player. I thought he was responsible and supported well. He was good on the PK."

I agree with Chiarelli’s sentiments here. I did find Kailer Yamamoto doing the little things that a North American coach would favor in a smaller player. He was quite good at disrupting getting his nose dirty and digging about in the dirty areas. He just lacked finish.

"“We took him out of the game and sat him a bit. For him, it’s about finishing. Go down and finish your opportunities. He did have a lot of opportunities up here and I didn’t want his confidence to struggle here, too.”"

In the AHL, he’s going to dominate I feel. He’s got excellent hockey IQ, and he’s very shifty and right on his edges. It depends on where Jay Woodcroft puts him in the lineup. Will he play with veterans Brad Malone and Patrick Russell or might get a spot on the “kid line” with Tyler Benson and Cameron Hebig?

Going Forward

"“The book isn’t closed. They’ll go down and play. They’re doing a good job down there. All the guys are thriving down there. It’s a good environment.”"

Peter Chiarelli also said that he’d got a defined timeframe as to how long Puljujarvi and Yamamoto would be in the minors for but didn’t say precisely how long that would be. But I feel this is a step in the right direction for these two young players as there’s an excellent possibility if they’re performances are promising, and their attitudes are right. That with this opportunity to develop they could be called up and placed right into a spot to succeed.

The Bakersfield Condors are 7-4-0 and averaging four goals a game at the moment. If you’ve watched any of their games so far, you’ll know that Jay Woodcroft his team playing an up-tempo offensive game and he’s leaning on the kids and their abilities.

Cameron Hebig is tied for 2nd in rookie goal scoring in the AHL. Tyler Benson is tied for 2nd in assists amongst rookies. Both of them are tied for 4th in rookie scoring. Then you’ve got Caleb Jones, a second-year defender; he has 9 pts in 11 games for the Condors.

This is a team that should dominate absolutely with the additions of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto.