Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson is an outstanding prospect. Those who look for tools are excited about the combination of size and speed that Paajarvi brings to the game. Those who look for statistics are excited about a player who scored nine points in nine games against men at the World Hockey Championships, and one of the ten best U19 offensive seasons in Swedish Elite League history. He's going to be good.
A few months ago the Copper and Blue was able to conduct an interview with Paajarvi. One of the most impressive parts of that interview was the understanding of the game demonstrated in Paajarvi's answers. For example, Paajarvi was asked about his lack of penalty minutes and how that might reflect a lack of physical play. Although he admitted it's an area he'd like to work on, he also talked about his ability to win puck battles without taking penalties and his ability to use his physicality to draw penalties from the opposition. In other words, he talked about the physical aspects of the game that most help the team win.
Later on, he was asked about the match-ups that he was seeing, and demonstrated a good awareness of tactics. He mentioned that Timra didn't generally match lines "like you often do in North America" but that he was often used in offensive situations. Despite that usage, he also noted that "every line needs to check," demonstrating a good awareness of the game. Taken together, these answers tell us that he probably had a higher than average number of offensive zone starts and that he likely faced reasonable competition. He also sounds like a guy who understands that it's important to be hard on the puck in all areas of the ice. Whenever you have a player with his kind of offensive skills who also understands what parts of the game help a team to win, you've got a pretty good player.
Since that interview, Paajarvi competed with Sweden's national team in the World Hockey Championships. He scored nine points in nine games to lead his team in scoring, and notch the third best total in the tournament. He was also (ho-hum) named to the tournament all-star team, a pretty darn impressive showing for one of the youngest players there.
What should we expect of Paajarvi next season? I'm really not sure. Statistically, he's a step behind the elite players who have come out of the SEL (the Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg), but it's also pretty hard not to look at Anze Kopitar's progression and be hopeful for a real difference-maker. Kopitar was taken 11th overall in 2005, put up 20 points in 47 games in the SEL in 2005-06, and then took a huge step forward once he arrived in the NHL in 2006-07.
If Paajarvi doesn't take that big step, the Oilers will still have an excellent player - a big winger who understands how to use his physical skills to help his team win games. But if the offense comes - and it's far from out of the question - this player could be among the league's top twenty left-wingers for years to come.