Jesse Puljujärvi isn't scoring, but he's doing just about everything else for the Oilers
Anyone that follows me on Twitter is almost certainly already aware of my fascination with Jesse Puljujärvi. His face is just so naturally suited to memes. It's almost impossible not to root for him and what he represents when he's on the ice.
He's a young player who clearly works his butt off on every single shift, and visibly loves playing the game. He's taken the long road to get here too, having to overcome disappointment early in his career. When you're the fourth overall pick, there's always going to be immensely bloated expectations. It took him a while to finally stick in the NHL, going back to Europe to work on his game before coming back and earning the role he has now with his play.
He's also the perfect litmus test for how you watch games, and evaluate a player's contributions to the overall results. If you're looking at just the traditional box score, you're probably going to be underwhelmed by what you see. He has just eight 5-on-5 goals this season, despite getting to play 547 minutes with Connor McDavid and another 329 with Leon Draisaitl. Scoring is great, but there's a lot more nuance to hockey than just that. For whatever reason, people can't seem to get past the mental block of what they expect a player to look and play like depending on the role they fill on a depth chart.
If you dig just a little bit deeper, you'll find a player that is consistently doing a whole lot of more subtle things to drive possession. Even when he's not scoring himself, he's helping make it easier for his teammates to do so, and that's making them better as a group every time he's on the ice. Let's take a look at some video to help illustrate those parts of his game, and show how he's been a supremely effective top-line player despite not having the counting stats that you'd expect from one.
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