Magnus Pääjärvi - Keeping Lofty Company

VANCOUVER CANADA - DECEMBER 26: Magnus Paajarvi #91 of the Edmonton Oilers fires a shot on goalie Cory Schneider #35 of the Vancouver Canucks during the third period in NHL action on December 26 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver BC Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Before we were able to watch Magnus Pääjärvi streak around NHL ice, sweater flapping in his wake, it was difficult to know exactly what the Oilers had on their hands.  He's wondrous talent with jaw-dropping speed and strength to go with it.  The scouting reports all said excellent things but dinged him for a lack of high-level hands, and that lack of high-level hands saw him drop 3-5 spots in the 2009 NHL entry draft. Oilers' fans got small glimpses of Paajarvi in highlights and the World Junior Championship, but when it came to projecting the player, we only had his own comparable, Maxim Afinogenov, and the math's comparables, Peter Forsberg, Thomas Steen, Michael Nylander, Niklas Andersson, and Mats Lindgren.

With his first NHL season under his belt, it's time to look at the comps again.

I took the list of SEL players from the prior comps post and whittled it down to include only those players who jumped to the NHL for their 19 year old seasons.

Player Pos 19 Year  GP G A P P/G
Anze Kopitar C 2006 72 20 41 61 0.847
Mats Sundin C 1990 80 23 36 59 0.738
Michael Nylander C 1992 59 11 22 33 0.559
Daniel Sedin LW 2000 75 20 14 34 0.453
Magnus Pääjärvi LW 2010 80 15 19 34 0.425
Henrik Sedin C 2000 82 9 20 29 0.354

Pääjärvi didn't put up as much offense as Kopitar and Sundin, but surprisingly, for me at least, he's kept pace with the Sedins.

If we normalize the scoring for era effects, Nylander's 19-year old scoring levels drop significantly.

Player Norm P/G
Anze Kopitar 0.862
Mats Sundin 0.641
Daniel Sedin 0.495
Michael Nylander 0.464
Magnus Pääjärvi 0.457
Henrik Sedin 0.386

Pääjärvi is still in the range of the Sedins.

The Oilers were an awful team last year, significantly worse than the Canucks but in the range of Nylander's Whalers, Kopitar's Kings and Sundin's Nordiques.  The 2010 Oilers, however, were the lowest-scoring of the bunch, so it's worth looking at team effects as well.

Player Pos 19 Year  P/G Team G Team G/G % Off
Anze Kopitar C 2006 0.847 223 2.72 0.312
Mats Sundin C 1990 0.738 236 2.95 0.250
Magnus Pääjärvi LW 2010 0.425 191 2.33 0.182
Michael Nylander C 1992 0.559 284 3.38 0.165
Daniel Sedin LW 2000 0.453 239 2.91 0.156
Henrik Sedin C 2000 0.354 239 2.91 0.121

Pääjärvi's percentage of total offense (18.2%) comes in third behind Kopitar and Sundin, but ahead of Nylander and the Sedins.  In other words, no matter how we slice his rookie season, Pääjärvi produced offense at a rate similar to the Sedins and Nylander.  I'll freely admit to being shocked by the numbers, and I think most readers will be shocked as well.

Even though it took him 20 games to figure out his new league and 30 games before he began to break even, Pääjärvi's numbers are still impressive when considered in light of his peer group.  He's overshadowed by his more heralded teammates Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and the shadow is only going to grow when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes to town, but the kid has a bright future.  If Pääjärvi keeps pace with his peer group and produces like Nylander, Sedin and Sedin, the spotlight will shift to the young Swede and stay there for the next decade.

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