Given all that's happened over the last week and a half I think it's more than a little interesting that we happen to get to Magnus Paajarvi in the Top 25 Under 25 today.
You know the recent history. After being arguably the Oilers best player in both of the games during Taylor Hall's suspension he was benched for two games to make room for a healthy Ryan Jones. When a spot became available on the weekend he was again one of the best Oilers on the ice but with the addition of Mike Brown there is talk in the media about sending him to Oklahoma City in order to open up a roster spot.
During the course of a hockey game a lot of things happen, some of which matter and lot that don't, but in the end, the game comes down to goals and which team scores the most. To that end, the goal of any team should be to have as many good players as possible. And regardless of what some think, Magnus Paajarvi does the kind of things that matter during the game and is a good hockey player. Which is why we've ranked him seventh in the Top 25 Under 25.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Michael||Ryan||Scott|
There is a fair amount of agreement between the voters on Paajarvi this time around with all nine voters ranking him no lower than ninth but his jump in the rankings is a little deceiving because he didn't actually move past anyone. Instead Jeff Petry turned 25 and graduated from or list and Paajarvi, who was three spots behind him, simply moved up one place in the rankings. Looking at the ranking from that perspective it might be easy to be disappointed with Paajarvi's development since was selected tenth overall in 2009, but the Oilers rebuild, if it's accomplished anything, has stocked the team with some young, high end talent. And it's that more than anything else that is holding Paajarvi back in our rankings.
If you're a regular visitor to this site and have paid any attention to the Top 25 so far you can almost certainly guess who the six players ahead of Paajarvi are and can figure out the the one thing they have common: they're all full time NHL players. Paajarvi is the last player in our rankings that's trying to earn a spot in the Oilers line-up on a nightly basis but I - and I think most of the other voters would agree - have no clue why that's the case.
The biggest knock against Paajarvi is that he doesn't contribute enough offensively. I wish I could argue this but I can't. In 137 career games he has just 45 points, 34 of which came in his rookie season. Last year he struggled mightily to produce offensively but he also had a 2.5% shooting percentage. That number isn't just bad, it's historically bad. League wide Paajarvi ranked eleventh last season (ignore Petry who is listed as a centre) and in the Oilers record books his season ranks as the third worst.
But a) it's just one season, b) seasons like that one don't typically repeat themselves, and c) Paajarvi has shown that 2.5% likely isn't his true skill level by shooting 8.3% as a rookie and north of 11% so far this season. Without a doubt, results matter and it's important to produce but sometimes you just get unlucky and there is nothing you can do about that except ride it out. If the skills are there and the process is right sooner or later good things will happen. And that is the case with Paajarvi.
Results aside, Paarjavi kept the puck moving in the right direction when he was on the ice. He might not have been wearing out the goal light in the offensive zone quite the way we would have liked but it wasn't being worn out in the defensive zone either. So while he was unlucky the skills of an NHL player were certainly present and he was doing the little things right even if the results weren't showing up on the score sheet. On a team that would ultimately finish 29th overall that should have been seen as a positive but instead Paajarvi bounced back and forth between Edmonton and Oklahoma City.
The Oilers coaches didn't do Paajarvi any favours last season either sending him out with Eric Belanger almost 50% of the time. The two of them couldn't seem to produce a goal to save their lives but the coaches refused to give Paajarvi any real opportunity with anyone else in an effort to get him rolling offensively. The season before Tom Renney had put Shawn Horcoff between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle to help shelter them during their rookie seasons and it worked quite well. But no effort was made to try something similar with Paajarvi, instead he just kept being sent into the Belanger Triangle and the results continued to disappoint. That should be seen as a failing of the coach not the player.
This season it's been more of the same for Paajarvi. He's scored only three goals this season but on an Oilers team that's struggling to produce offence on an almost nightly basis his two even strength goals tie him for fifth on the team. And as we saw last season, his possession numbers are strong but he's not being rewarded with the ice time. After playing over 15 minutes a night as a rookie he's now down below 12 minutes on average even after seeing the ice more in his last two starts than he had in any other games this season. And don't forget he was benched after one of those games.
Paajarvi is already a good player, on this there should be no argument. He might not be what the Oilers envisioned when they selected him tenth overall but that doesn't make him any less valuable. The Oilers continued insistence on icing a line-up night after night designed for toughness when they've got skill staring them right in the face does not help them win games.
I'm going to leave you with some thoughts from Woodguy who had a brilliant post on Paajarvi yesterday on Lowetide's site. If you haven't read it you really should.
With all that evidence of his effectiveness, there is no question he belongs on the Oilers and deserves ice time ahead of most, if not all of the roster competitors I identified here. He may not be a top 6 player, but he is showing he has the makings of a very good 3rd liner. Many high quality 3rd line players in the NHL are former first round draft picks who scored in the lower levels of hockey, but didn’t have the elite offensive talent to be a scorer in the NHL. Notable former Oilers who fall into this category include Moreau, Reasoner. Mike Peca and Jarrett Stoll were high 2nd round picks. We may feel like Paajarvi is a failed top 10 draft pick if he doesn’t become a top 6 forward, but that isn’t true. He can be a key part of this team as it grows. We need to appreciate players for what they are, not what they aren’t, and Paajarvi’s skill set is suited to playing against good players and keeping them off the score sheet.
Check out the complete Top 25 Under 25 List in our