While an increase in playing time is common for young on non-playoff teams at this time of the year, Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan has no plans to move 19-year-old winger Jesse Puljujarvi up from the third line.
Puljujarvi, the fourth-overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, has 11 goals and 18 points while averaging 13:37 of ice time in 49 games this season.
Most recently, he's playing on his off-wing on a line Ryan Strome and Anton Slepyshev while averaging less than 13 minutes of playing time since February. McLellan said he believes Puljujarvi, who has two goals and one assist in his past 17 games, is benefiting from facing lower-pairing defencemen.
“He’s been able to load and shoot,” McLellan told the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean he doesn’t open up scoring chances, streaking down his natural right side but I think Jesse has a knack of releasing the puck from his off-side where he can fool a few goal-tenders. A lot of players are scoring from that area, on the off-side. Let’s give it a chance and see where it goes.
“We’ve upped Jesse’s power play time, we’ve put him on the off wing and maybe he’s not as comfortable there so we’d like to not have him against the other team’s top D pairings and lines for now. Jesse and Strome have had some unity, there’s momentum there.”
While Puljujarvi skates on the left wing of the third line, trade deadline acquisition Pontus Aberg has been placed on the right wing of the team's second line beside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Aberg, acquired from the Nashville Predators for Mark Letestu, has one assist in four games since joining the Oilers while averaging 13:58 of ice time.
The Oilers (28-34-4) host the New York Islanders on Thursday.