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The Oilers selected Finnish right winger Jesse Puljujarvi fourth overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Puljujarvi is 6-foot-3, 203 pounds and ranked third on NHL Central Scouting’s list of European skaters. Puljujarvi played 50 games for Karpat in Finland, scoring 13 goals and adding 15 assists for 28 points. In the playoffs, Puljujarvi tallied four goals and five assists in 10 games.
“I’m really happy now. It’s a nice city and a great team. I’m ready to play next year for the Edmonton Oilers,” said Puljujarvi shortly after being drafted.
“It’s a good thing to get on a team that has a lot of young players and who are only going to get better and start winning at some point too,” he added, through a translator.
Puljujarvi was asked about the potential of playing with last year's first-round pick Connor McDavid.
“Connor is a very good player and I hope I play next year with him.”
He was also asked about playing in the Finnish League, where he had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games plus nine more in 10 playoff games.
“(I) learned a lot about what it’s like to be a professional hockey player and play with men and have to fight for a spot on the roster.”
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Charlie McAvoy finished his freshman campaign at Boston University with 25 points (3-22-25) in 37 games. That was good for second in defensive scoring.
It was a good transition for the player, who is expected to go in the first round Friday night at the Draft in Buffalo.
McAvoy credits his older teammates for helping him jump right in and contribute.
“I think it was our upper class,” said McAvoy. “Our upper class and our seniors. You come in as a freshman and you’re not really sure where you fit.
Guys like Matt Grzelcyk, Daniel O’Regan, Matt Lane, Mike Moran, Sean Maguire were guys who right away made you feel like part of the family and I can never thank those guys enough for that,” said McAvoy. “That’s really what led to the year we had, was making everyone feel so close.”
McAvoy finished sixth on Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters.
Matthew Tkachuk is a presumptive top-five pick in Friday night’s first round. But the London Knights forward, obviously, doesn’t 100 percent know which team he’ll go to.
“It’s exciting,” Tkachuk said. “It’s also exciting just to know where you’re going to play. This whole process, especially since the season has been over, has been pretty crazy. But I’m excited. It’s almost down to the wire.”
Tkachuk won’t be completely in the dark on whichever team takes him. The hockey player is also very hockey knowledgable.
“I’m a hockey guy, so I pay attention to all of that,” he said. “I guess I’m kind of involved in researching that stuff. But just from watching hockey, you just know. I know what they have, I know what they need, I know what I can bring. It’s just the fact of if it’s going to be a good fit or not.”
Tkachuk is certainly in the mix for the Oilers if they select fourth overall. He met with them at the Combine, and also went to visit the city.
“I went to Edmonton. I got to sit down with them for a little bit longer than the (Combine) interview.”
They may have played half a world away from each other, but two Finnish prospects are no strangers.
London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi watched his countryman put up a more than solid year for Karpat in Finland. Puljujarvi had 28 points (13-15-28) in 50 games this season. He had four goals and five assists in 10 playoff games.
The big right winger has turned plenty of heads among scouts and fans alike, but he also made an impression on Juolevi, who had a big season of his own in North America.
“Probably just how much he loves to play hockey," said Juolevi. "You always see him smiling even on the ice. Just a big smile. His skills, the skating, the big body. He’s just a great hockey player.”
Juolevi had a 42-point season on London’s back end this year. He is expected to be among the first defencemen off the board in Friday’s first round. Puljujarvi is a presumptive lock in the top five, and almost the consensus third-overall pick.
Connor McDavid won’t be bringing any hardware home from Las Vegas, but the Oilers rookie will still have fond memories of his first NHL Awards experience.
McDavid was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top rookie, but Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin ultimately claimed the honour.
Panarin took the prize with 1258 total vote points, including 88 first-place selections. Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere received 955 points and 35 first-place votes, while McDavid landed just behind him in third with 858 points and 25 first-place nods.
“It doesn’t matter, I’m just happy to be in Vegas,” McDavid said of not winning the award. “It was a good rookie class, so it’s good for (Panarin)… It was just cool to be here and experience this.”
The centreman was, however, named to the NHL All-Rookie Team, alongside Panarin, Gostisbehere, Jack Eichel, Colton Parayko and John Gibson.
The focus now shifts to next season for McDavid, who is looking forward to being one of the first players to grace the ice at brand new Rogers Place.
“I’m excited about being in the new building, it’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “Edmonton fans deserve it, and hopefully we’ll put together a good year for them. They’ve been waiting a long time.”
The National Hockey League announced today the 2015-16 NHL All-Rookie Team, including the three players voted as finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the League’s top rookie: forwards Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks as well as defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Also named to the 2015-16 NHL All-Rookie Team are forward Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, defenseman Colton Parayko of the St. Louis Blues and goaltender John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks.
Voting was conducted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season.
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, ranked fourth among rookies with 16-32—48 despite appearing in only 45 games due to injury. His average of 1.07 points per game led all rookies and placed third in the entire League. McDavid recorded multiple points in 12 of his 45 outings, highlighted by a five-point game Feb. 11 vs. TOR (2-3—5). At 19 years, 29 days, he became the ninth-youngest player in NHL history to register a five-point performance (as well as the third rookie in Oilers history to achieve the feat). The Richmond Hill, Ont., native is Edmonton’s first All-Rookie Team selection since Justin Schultz in 2012-13.
Oilers Vice Chair Kevin Lowe was asked about the new Las Vegas team, announced by the NHL on Wednesday and his projection of their future success.
“I think it’s going to be a home run. Kudos to the National Hockey League for getting there first,” stated Lowe.
“They’ve got a beautiful building. I toured it back in February — it’s spectacular. Though not quite as nice as ours,” Lowe chuckled. “They’re going to have all the new bells and whistles, which is night.”
Lowe was also asked about the expansion rules surrounding the new team, which include clubs having the option to either protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (any combination of defencemen and forwards) and one goaltender.
“They’re coming in under the best conditions ever in terms of expansion,” Lowe continued. “They’re probably going to have a strong team right out of the gate. They’ll have a strong fan base. So that’s a recipe for success.”
All first- and second-year professionals, as well as all unsigned draft choices, will be exempt from selection and will not be counted toward their club’s applicable protection limits.
The new Las Vegas expansion team was announced on Wednesday to join the NHL in the 2017-18 season. How does this affect the Oilers? The new team will play in the Pacific Division -- the same division as Edmonton.
This puts eight teams in the Pacific Division while seven teams remain in the Central Division. The Oilers will now play six of their division foes four times a season (two home, two away) and one team within their division five times (three home, two away or vice versa).
Among Central Division teams, they'll play each team three times (either two home, one away or vice versa).
Outside of the Conference, they will continue to play each team twice (one home and one away).
The NHL’s top players and coaches have converged on Las Vegas for the 2016 NHL Awards, which will be doled out on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, many of the award finalists spoke to the media and expressed plenty of praise for Oilers rookie Connor McDavid, including his Calder Trophy competition.
“He’s an excellent player, very skilled, very smart and very fast on the ice,” said Chicago Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin, one of the few freshmen to outscore McDavid, putting up 77 points in 80 games compared to Connor’s 48 in 45.
The other finalist is Philadelphia Flyers blueliner Shane Gostisbehere, who said it’s an honour to be up for the Calder with McDavid, considering the tremendous potential of the young centreman.
“He’s going to be the face of the NHL for a while now,” said Gostisbehere, who scored 46 points in 64 games. “He’s a great player and it’s fun to watch him.”
Los Angeles Kings d-man and Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty said he was impressed with McDavid’s ability to make such an impact as a teenager.
“He’s just so good,” Doughty said. “He’s a threat every time he has the puck… He’s going to be one of the best players in the league, without a doubt.”
McDavid will arrive in Vegas on Tuesday night and hit the red carpet on Wednesday afternoon prior to the Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.