It's extra, ordinary and plain
I walk a thousand paces of light ahead of the game
By the time you get where I'm standing, I'll be gone
Y'all make moves, but y'all just move on
--Mos Def, "Sunshine"
Magnus Paajarvi is fast, really fast. Taylor Chorney won the fastest skater at the Oilers' skills competition only because Magnus didn't find much use in exerting himself in such a situation. Or maybe he has an unreported broken leg, no one is really sure. Paajarvi is the fastest skater in Edmonton since the bucolic days of Todd Marchant and Jason Chimera and by my eye, Paajarvi is faster, especially with the puck. Paajarvi is one of the fastest men in the league while carrying the puck, and when he's on his game, as he has been from time-to-time since Linus Omark was moved to his wing he's impossible for defenders to mark. His skating style is so very reminiscent of Mike Modano - head up and still, efficient movements with all parts of his body and, of course, his shirt flapping in his wake. His speed is such that we witnessed Paajarvi coast by a vigorously striding Ales Hemsky in pre-season and we know he must routinely hesitate to allow linemates to catch up with him. When Paajarvi skates through the neutral zone with speed, defenders don't just back up to give him space, they are thrown backwards as if hit by a massive burst of solar wind.
Paajarvi's ability is everything visually appealing in the game of hockey wrapped up in one copper and blue streak on the ice.
Paajarvi slides back one spot on the slimmest of margins - Ben, Jonathan and Scott all dropped him one spot while Bruce moved him up a spot and I left him at #3 overall.
While I continue to rank Paajarvi very high on this list, I agree with my esteemed colleague - Magnus should have stayed in the SEL for one more season. This isn't a sleight intended towards Paajarvi - he has world-class ability - rather it's a problem of organizational logistics. Paajarvi has been on the ice for 348 total even strength scoring chance events, but less than 35% of them have occurred with Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner or Ales Hemsky on the ice. Compare that with Taylor Hall. Hall has been on the ice for 499 scoring chance events and one of the Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky trio has been on the ice for more than 75% of those events. Jordan Eberle has been on the ice for 355 events and one of the aforementioned trio has been on the ice for more than 50% of them. In other words, Paajarvi has been stuck with the Oilers bottom six as regular linemates, and as we know from the scoring chance totals, the bottom six is severely outgunned. By some accounts, especially out-of-town media, Paajarvi has "lagged" behind Hall and Eberle, but considering the linemates the three have played with, direct comparisons aren't exactly meaningful and this is why Paajarvi probably deserved another season in the SEL.
But what's done is done and cannot be changed. What is Paajarvi's outlook going forward? In Omark, he's found a running buddy. In the time since Omark's promotion to the NHL and to Paajarvi's line, Paajarvi has nearly pulled even in scoring chances when the two of them are on the ice.
Paajarvi is going to remain the third wheel for the foreseeable future, at least until the Oilers trade Ales Hemsky or Dustin Penner. Then, as is their custom, the Oilers will likely ask Paajarvi to take minutes he's not capable of playing and giving him a trial by fire.
But until then, we can enjoy the raw ability and assets in Paajarvi's game - the jaw-dropping skating ability, his blinding speed on backchecks, and the tenacity and half-Finnish player brings to the game.