Pierre-Luc Dubois' birthday surprise was more than a surprise to the hockey world – it was a reverberating gasp.
Ville Siren, head amateur scout for the Blue Jackets, stepped to the podium and selected Dubois at No. 3 overall. No, it wasn't Jesse Puljujarvi, whose named adorned nearly every mock draft in that spot. Surely, Jarmo Kekalainen had to take the Finn, right?
And all Dubois has done in that time is become one of the budding young stars in the game, ascending to the Blue Jackets' No. 1 center position on merit and proving he's a big-game player. The "other guy," Jesse Puljujarvi, was seen as the slam-dunk pick for Kekalainen but he took a hard pass. We'll never know exactly why, either.
Now, on the eve of NHL Draft 2019, we have this:
Jesse Puljujarvi has made it clear to the Edmonton Oilers he wants to be traded. He wants a fresh start to his young NHL career. Its believed the Oilers are willing to accommodate, but wont give him away and intend on being patient in finding a right fit.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 19, 2019
And, for good measure, this:
Puljujrvis agent Markus Lehto:— Tommi Seppl (@TommiSeppala) June 19, 2019
It doesnt make sense to go back where we were last season, its not good for either side. Discussions about parting ways have been going on for weeks already. Jesse needs a fresh start and its nothing against the Oilers. #NHLfi
Dubois, the pick that Kekalainen was widely criticized for making, has 47 goals and 109 points in his first two NHL seasons and hasn't missed a game. He's also played in each of the Blue Jackets' 16 playoff games over the last two years. Puljujarvi has 17 goals and 37 points in 139 career games. In 2018-19, he played 46 games with the Oilers and scored four goals.
At the time, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli was pretty stoked to have Puljujarvi "fall" to Edmonton at No. 4.
The Dubois-Puljujarvi scenario is a master class in how much we just don't know about the draft, particularly in the NHL, where clubs are drafting 17 and 18-year-old players. But the flip side, and perhaps the most important point to remember here, is that a strong scouting staff – which has the trust of hockey operations leadership – has the benefit of being able to make bold picks like the Blue Jackets made with Dubois.