The NHL draft is now less than a week away with the first round set for this Friday. Over the next several days, we will be taking a closer look at the prospects who will hear their name called early on Friday night.
Position: Right Wing
Birthdate: May 7, 1998
Hometown: Älvkarleby, Sweden
Weight: 200 lbs
Puljujärvi suited up for his second season in the Finnish Elite league, and showed he belonged, helping Karpat to a second place finish and putting up 28 points as a 17-year old. As Karpat hit the playoffs, Puljujärvi was actually still recovering from an injury but upon his return he seemed to hit his stride, putting up 9 points (4-5) in just 10 games before eventually losing to Laine’s Tappara Tampere squad in seven games.
Puljujärvi led all players at the World Junior Championships with 17 points in just 7 games on the winning Finnish squad. Not only did he take home the tournament’s top forward award (beating out Laine and Matthews in the vote) he was crowed the tournament MVP as well.
Karpat: 50 GP, 13 goals, 15 assists, 28 points, 22 PIMS, +5 rating
Playoffs: 10 GP, 4 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, 2 PIM
WJC: 7 GP, 5 goals, 12 assists, 0 PIM, +8 rating
Puljujärvi has been reported as one of the best skaters in the draft, despite his 6’3″ frame. His long stride and efficient motion lets him get around with ease, and allows him to get into prime offensive positions. While he’s known as a scoring winger, his two-way game is advanced for such a young player and is ahead of Laine on the defensive end.
His offensive game comes not only from an above average shot, but his playmaking abilities with the puck on his stick. Many scouts think this is the attribute most likely to set Puljujärvi apart in the NHL, allowing him to ride shotgun with an elite goal scoring talent, while covering up some defensive liabilities. His elite skating ability allows him to get back quickly and he almost never coasts when chasing an opponent, using his long wingspan to take pucks away.
If there is one complaint about Puljujärvi it’s that he doesn’t use his large frame to throw enough body checks. While using it as a leverage tool down low, he sometimes shies away from the physical side of the game. If he continues to learn how to use his size he may eventually develop that edge, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be a dominant physical presence.
Projected Future Role
Top six, two-way winger with elite playmaking ability.
After establishing himself against Men in the Finnish Elite League the past two years, Puljujärvi will be heading directly into the NHL next season. He may start on a lower line, due to his ability to contribute defensively but will crack the top six before long. Knee surgery has limited his ability to take part in camps this summer, but he should be ready for the start of the regular season.