Here’s every NHL team’s player to watch break out this year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 10: Nolan Patrick /
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Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi

Nail Yakupov! Ha-ha, just kidding. Oh, that joke never gets old. Seriously, though, the pick here is perhaps just as expected: Jesse Puljujarvi, the Oilers’ first-round pick, fourth overall, in 2016. But the big Finn (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) is determined to get it going this season, and he’s got more than the usual motivation: he’s entering a contract season. And … Oilers Nation is growing impatient after last season’s disappointing and, objectively speaking, unexpected drop in the standings and just might isolate him as a scapegoat if the team doesn’t bounce back.

The trick for Puljujarvi’s success this season will lie in him getting steady ice time with the same centerman. Last season, in his sophomore year he bounced around – with a fair degree of success, all things considered (12 goals in 65 games, averaging 13:22 per game) – playing primarily with Ryan Strome, but also seeing time on the wing with captain Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid’s stats were a tad better with Puljujarvi alongside him, so that bodes well for the young Swede’s future. A steady linemate would help his development, for sure, and perhaps buy him some good will with the fans. He’s only 20, people! Cut him some slack.