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Magnus Pääjärvi - #5 in The Copper & Blue's Top 25 Under 25

Someday in the distant future when Magnus Paajarvi tells his grandchildren about his days playing in the NHL it seems unlikely that this season will be featured prominently in any of his stories. After a solid rookie season with the Oilers, a season where he scored 15 goals and added 19 assists, Paajarvi has struggled to find his scoring touch this season - he scored his first and only goal of the season four days ago - and has as a result been demoted to Oklahoma City in an effort to get his game back on track not once but twice.

This summer when I looked at sophomore slumps I concluded that it was unlikely that each of Paajarvi, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle would improve their point totals this season. And I was right. But as much as I like to be right I can't say that I saw this kind of production drop off coming. If I was to update the chart from this summer Paajarvi would, at his current pace, find himself ahead of only Patrik Berglund. Since I thought Paajarvi was the most likely to see his per game scoring increase, this is more than a little surprising. So what happened?

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Ben
Jon Ryan Scott
5 Magnus Pääjärvi 1991-04-12
10 2009
6 6 5 5 5 6 5

Previous Rank: 5

With a single goal and only six assists to show for 34 games played this season it goes without saying that Paajarvi has struggled offensively. Those numbers are lower than what even the most pessimistic fan would have predicted for Paajarvi this season but a big reason why his scoring has all but evaporated is simply bad luck. A lot of bad luck. Last week at The Cult of Hockey Jonathan Willis looked at PDO and which Oilers forwards are either benefiting from or being hurt by the percentages this season. For the record, Paajarvi isn't just getting hurt, he's getting killed. As Jonathan says:

For Magnus Paajarvi, the situation is even worse – his on-ice shooting percentage is a miserable 2.40%. That’s the third-worst total for any NHL forward this year, a number that represents nearly a four-fold drop from what it was one year ago. That’s as bad as it gets, and it isn’t going to last. When projecting forward, Ales Hemsky and Magnus Paajarvi’s offense will rebound. We know this with near certainty.

Those numbers were compiled before the game against Detroit last week and since then Paajarvi has had some things go right for him. He finally scored his first goal of the season and has played very well skating alongside Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. That combination has helped to drive up his numbers slightly but the overall story remains the same: Paajarvi just isn't (at least not so far) getting the bounces to go his way this season.

Paajarvi's struggles this season goes beyond bounces though; situation has played a role as well. This year Paajarvi has played less at both even strength (down 1:40 per game) and on the power play (0:59 per game compared to 1:50 last season). And that ice time has mostly been spent on the third line with Eric Belanger and whoever else happened to be available on that night. Looking at the quality of teammate data available from Behind the Net there is a clear divide between the top half and the bottom half of the Oilers forwards; Paajarvi is in the bottom half and isn't getting the choice line mate assignments on a nightly basis. Less ice time and lower quality teammates isn't often a recipe for success.

So given the circumstances surrounding Paajarvi's season, it's not exactly a surprise that we haven't seen him fall in the ranking this time around. Interestingly, although his overall ranking has remained the same Paajarvi was dropped in the rankings of four of the five returning panelists. The skills are clearly there - the last three games should have served as a reminder for any who were unsure - so even though the results haven't been what we might have hoped for this season we still feel Paajarvi is one of the best Oilers under 25.