Here’s a look at how the Edmonton Oilers 2016 NHL Draft has panned out
Now we enter part 2 of our series on tracking the draft results of the last 5 seasons for the Edmonton Oilers. We already went over the start in the 2015 draft series, now let’s head to 2016. The 2016 NHL Draft was a much lower profile than 2015. There were no generational players, for one. We’re also still looking at the future for most of these players if they make it at all.
Oh, and for the rest of the blogs in the series instead of seeing whether the bet was covered or not as it’s still too early on most of these players, I’m instead going to be highlighting whether or not they’re trending up or down. This will make things more accurate from here on in.
In other words, 2016 was a more typical draft year. Let’s take a look.
Round 1, 4th overall – Jesse Puljujarvi
At the time the Oilers made this selection, GM at the time Peter Chiarelli couldn’t wait to come to the podium as Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen – who unexpectedly picked Pierre Luc-Dubois with the pick before this one – left their expected Puljujarvi pick on the board for Chiarelli to snap up, not believing his good fortune. JP came to the NHL draft having gone from 11 points in 21 games to 28 points in 50 games in his native Finland.
Fast forward to now, and it seems that perhaps Kekäläinen may have figured something out that escaped Chiarelli et al. Dubois has since gone on to score 158 points in 234 games for the BJs, including 2 straight 20 goal seasons and it likely would’ve been 3 this year had the season not paused when it did.
The pick on Puljujarvi has not gone as well. Between language barriers, attitude problems, a sense of entitlement, and being put into the top 6 before he was ready, Puljujarvi has been a thorn in the side of the organization and a black mark on it’s drafting record ever since he was drafted.
He’s proven he can score in the AHL, which as a young player is all well and good, but that scoring has yet to be imported to the NHL. In 139 NHL games so far, he’s produced a mere 37 career points with 12 goals being the highlight so far of this player’s career.
Add in rumours of ignoring coaching by the coaching staff and veteran players, and blowing off English language lessons that the team had paid for him to attend, and in the early going it certainly seemed like this pick has been a bust.
When Ken Holland became the Oilers GM last year, this was the highest-profile problem with the team he inherited – what do we do with JP? He left the team, declaring he wouldn’t sign another contract with us and would never play for the Oilers again. However, Ken Holland being a professional, knew he had three things going for him.
He wouldn’t be that attractive to other teams as a player whose rights they had to trade for. The Oilers had invested significant resources in drafting and developing JP already. On top of it all, the Oilers still held his signing rights for another 5 years, so he couldn’t be snatched away as a free agent without someone trading for his negotiation rights. He held out for a high price in a trade that no other team wanted to pay, so he remained Oilers property in the NHL. If he wasn’t playing for the Oilers, he wasn’t playing in the NHL.
With a GM who wouldn’t grant a trade request and a season playing in SM-liiga under his belt in his native Finland in which he put up 24 goals and 53 points in 56 games, it appears Puljujarvi had his playing confidence back. He has since softened his stance on never coming back to the Oilers, to the point where it’s rumoured that any day now Puljujarvi will sign his 2nd contract with the Oilers.
Only time will tell if the attitude has been buried and we’ll see a repeat of underwhelming results or if the lightbulb comes on for him. One thing’s for sure, though, Puljujarvi is only 22 and at this point is far from a bust. Only coming back to the Oilers and suiting up will we know for sure. As of now, the next season isn’t slated to start until December, so we’ll see what happens.
His season playing in his native Finland is good progress, but not all European scorers can duplicate those results in the NHL. The only way to know for sure is to come back and play the games.
For the record, here’s his scouting report.
Going forward: If a team really wants to take a flyer on him they may offer the Oilers a 1st rounder this year in exchange for him, but that’s not likely to happen. At this point he’ll have to come back and prove himself with the Oilers, and whatever happens from there we’ll see.
Trending: Down, until he proves otherwise. Not a bust yet, but trending down.
Round 2, 32nd overall – Tyler Benson
LWer Benson had himself a solid junior career for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, and in his last 3 seasons improving in points all 3 years from 28 points in 30 games to 42 points in 33 games to 69 points in 58 games. He then followed up that final season in junior with 11 points in 7 playoff games.
After he had finished up his junior career, he graduated to the pros by joining the Condors for 5 games in 2017-18, putting up 3 assists in those 5 games. His first full season in the AHL he did very well, putting up a fantastic 15-51-66 with 44 PIMs and a +21.
He then followed that up with 9-27-36 in 47 games for the Condors. As the AHL paused their season just like the NHL did, it’s not unlikely that in a full 68 AHL games he might’ve kept up the same pace as he did in his previous season. Although if you mathematically project it out he was on pace for a bit of a slide, as that rookie season he produced at a 0.97 PPG pace, while this season that slide a bit to 0.77.
The biggest strike against him this year, though, is that Benson’s +/- went from the aforementioned +21 to a -10 this past season. Nonetheless, Benson earned a cup of coffee in the big leagues this year, getting called up to the Oilers on merit, and going 0-1-1 in 7 games with a -1. Not great, but again we have to consider the inexperience this young man has, and in a 1st callup it’s not uncommon for a player to simply succeed by not being overwhelmed.
It appears Benson needs to work on his defensive game, but other than that he’s a player who thus far has a scoring touch with a physical side (Did I mention he has 78 PIMS over his 2 full AHL seasons?).
Scouting report pegs him at either a 2nd line winger or bottom 6 energy player.
Going forward: After the Oilers performance in the playoffs, look for the player development staff to stress Benson working on his defensive game in the AHL or whatever league he ends up in next season as we don’t know the AHL’s plans for next season at this time. If Benson can improve his own zone play and increase his boxcars in the minors, he could be a favorite for a spot 2 seasons from now.
Considering Holland’s penchant for letting players marinate in the minors for a long time, expect Benson to spend at least 1 more season in the minors. Let’s see where he is after next season, but if he plays his cards right he could be up for a spot on the 3rd line in 2022. Benson remains one of the Oiler’s top forward prospects right now.