The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is 37 days away and the Wild are looking to find that next NHL star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a daily mock draft. We are at pick number 3 today.
The General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets has made some bone-headed moves in his tenure. He gave up a compensatory pick to the Vancouver Canucks with what is going to be a high 2nd round pick when he hired John Tortarella after firing Todd Richards early in the season. And not only did he give up the pick, but he hired a coach that was so abrasive, he was forced to trade away the best young center he had in Ryan Johansen.
However, in this year's draft, having the third overall pick will be tough for even Finland-native Jarmo Kekalainen to screw up. He doesn't have to go very far than his native country for Jesse Puljujarvi from Karpat of Finnish Liiga.
Blue Jacket's Reinforcements
The Blue Jackets have been debuting some young talent recently as promising left winger Kerby Rychel saw 32 games with Columbus this season. He still projects to be a top line forward after a decent showing of skill in the shuffle between the Lake Erie Monsters and the NHL. Zach Werenski was drafted last season and is the Jacket's top defensive prospect after a solid season with Michigan Wolverines. Werenski signed a pro contract in April after the Wolverines were eliminated in the NCAA tournament to North Dakota. He should be in the NHL next season and could really help fortify a group of good, young blue liners in Seth Jones, whom they acquired in the Johansen trade with the Predators, David Savard, Cody Goloubef, and long time veteran Jack Johnson.
But I would be remiss if we didn't mention Sonny Milano. Milano was a good pick in the 2014 Entry Draft, and at 19 years old, he made his debut with the Monsters in the AHL. He has a very good skill-set and hands that could make him a dynamic player in the future.
Jesse Puljujarvi is a good consolation prize
Even if the Blue Jackets can't get Patrik Laine or Auston Matthews, Puljujarvi was considered once in the top 2 of this draft class before Laine had quite the showing in the World Juniors and in the Liiga playoffs. The 6'3" 201 pound 18 year old is really shifty as he skates well and has a burst of speed to win races to the puck and quickly get into a position to score before you know what happened. He uses his body well to shield the puck and be tough to knock off the puck.
Puljujarvi is a heck of a playmaker. Where did most of those goals in the WJC from Laine come from? Well, off the stick of Puljujarvi, of course. In the 7 game WJC tournament, Puljujarvi had 15 assists. The kid is always swarming to the puck and looking to create with it. In one of the games during the tournament, a commentator had said that his performance was as dominant you could get without scoring.
His is one knock on Puljujarvi compared Laine. Laine was just more accurate, but make no mistake that Puljujarvi had plenty of opportunities to bury the puck and sometimes the puck just went off the post. The scoring did slow a bit later in the season which also caused his draft position to suffer slightly.
Puljujarvi is one of the most exciting prospects Finland has produced. He's a big, explosive winger, who was the second-highest scoring 17-year-old ever at the WJC, tied with Eric Lindros and a point behind Jaromir Jagr. He's an unbelievable skater for a 6-foot-4 player, having a great top gear and a really ﬂuid stride - Corey Pronman
Puljujärvi is a big winger who combines size, skating and skill. A strong skater who can blast past the opposition in full speed. Able to use his size, reach and stickhandling skills to retain the puck in speed. A smart player at both ends of the ice, both on and off the puck. Great work ethic and positive attitude. More of a playmaker than a scorer and could improve his shooting skills. Doesn't shy away from physical play, but could use his size more to his benefit - EliteProspects.com
Jesse Puljujarvi is by no means a consolation prize. Arguably the second most talented ‘Fin available in the 2016 NHL Draft, Puljujarvi netted nine points over Karpat's ten playoff games played, and given his size at 6'3″, 200 pounds, is of similar size and skill as Laine. Where Laine edges Puljujarvi is in his level of raw skill, while the latter is widely considered as more NHL ready. - Brett Slawson, The Hockey Writers
How He'd Fit the Wild
He's big? Check. He's fast and a good skater? Check. Is he Finnish? Definitely Check (not Czech).
The Wild aren't such a bold team to make a trade up for the 3rd overall pick in the draft, especially with no draft selections later in the draft to use as currency, but if the Wild could have maneuvered up in this draft, there'd be no doubt that Jesse Puljujarvi is high atop that draft board. He offers the speed that the Wild want to play with, the size they covet, and the kind of shot to always be a threat on the ice. Mikael Granlund is blushing at Jesse's playmaking abilities.
If the Wild are going to take this puck possession style seriously, Puljujarvi's ability to swarm the puck with the physical tools he possesses, he'd fit that style perfectly.