Photo courtesy of NHL.com.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Jesse Puljujarvi to a free-agent try out. Puljujarvi was cleared for full-contact training this past Saturday, opening up his availability to NHL teams. The 25-year-old winger had surgery on both of his hips this past summer and has worked his way back after only 6 months.
Puljujarvi was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft after playing well for Karpat in the CHL. He made the Edmonton Oilers out of rookie training camp but struggled out of the gate and only had 1 goal and 7 assists in 28 games. He was sent to Edmonton’s AHL team in Bakersfield and produced for the Condors, putting up 12 goals and 16 assists in 39 games. He played with Edmonton for 3 more non-productive seasons and then was signed by Karpat to a 1-year deal. He returned to Edmonton after 1 year overseas and he had his best season during the 2021-2022 season scoring 14 goals and 22 assists in 65 games.
During the 2022-2023 season, he was traded to Carolina during the trade deadline but could only muster up 2 assists in 17 games for the Hurricanes after the trade. After the 2023 season, Puljujarvi underwent surgery on both of his hips and was facing a lengthy recovery. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the Hurricanes, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Puljujarvi is a big-strong right wing who is known for playing a two-way game. He forechecks well and he is strong against the boards in battles. He is tenacious in his own end and will do whatever it takes to overtake the puck from the opponent. He has shown more of a penchant to setting up teammates than he has as a finisher.
Puljujarvi has never become the scorer that many around the NHL world thought he’d grow into. At 6’4”, he has never filled out his frame and is not as strong on the puck as he should be. His offensive game is very inconsistent and he has gone through extended bouts of turning the puck over and missing grade-A chances to score. He may never grow into that top 6 forward, but when healthy, could be an option on a bottom 6.
Kyle Dubas once again has gone out and brought a player into the organization that has talent and experience. In Puljujarvi’s case, he has to prove that he can come back from this serious injury. If he proves he can play, Dubas may have found a cheap option and some more NHL ready depth for the organization. At only 25-years-old, he still has some time to grow and mature as a player for the Penguins, making him a high reward/low risk signing.