If there's one player who can understand what John Tavares'
life in the spotlight has been like, it's Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
The forward has been as big a star in his native Sweden as Tavares has been throughout Canada.
"I learned from a young age to get attention," Paajarvi-Svensson told NHL.com. "I always have attention when I was little in Sweden. I learned through the years. It was a good experience for me to have that attention at a young age because now I feel very comfortable with the media."
Paajarvi-Svensson made himself a household name at home with a star-making performance in the country's biggest youth hockey tournament, TV-Pucken. In eight games as a 14-year-old in 2005, he had 8 goals and 11 points for his home district of Skane, which finished second. Paajarvi-Svensson played in the event the next two years, finishing with 7 goals and 11 points in 2006 and 5 goals and 12 points in 2007, further cementing his place as a future star.
"It was a good tournament for me, especially the first one, it was a little bit of a breakout for me," said Paajarvi-Svensson. "TV-Pucken is a pretty huge tournament in Sweden, it's followed by TV and there aren't too many that are. It's a good tournament, it's fun and the whole country has seen it."
The whole country has continued to watch Paajarvi-Svensson excel. He became the youngest player in Swedish hockey history to represent his country at the World Junior Championship, when he had a goal and an assist in six games as a 16-year-old in 2008. Earlier that season, he became the fourth-youngest player (16 years, 5 months, 12 days) to debut in the Swedish Elite League, where had 3 points in 35 games with Timra IK.
This past season, Paajarvi-Svensson had 7 goals and 17 points in 50 SEL games.
"You learn a lot every practice," Paajarvi-Svensson said of playing in the Elitserien. "It was a real good experience getting to play with men all the time. I think you mature a little bit, see hockey in a different way than junior hockey. I developed a lot in the men's league for sure, just in practice."
At 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, he has a man's body to go with his mature game.
"Magnus perhaps is the stereotype of the skilled Swede coming over here in recent years -- outside speed extraordinaire, ability to freeze defenders and make all his good moves work even more effectively," said NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire. "He was a good contributor to his team at the World Junior tournament and I think will be an essential member of any NHL team in years to come."
"He is absolutely fearless on the ice," added NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb. "He is a great skater. With his moves, he's creating scoring chances both for himself and for his teammates. He is a guy that can go straight for the net and make things happen -- just with his speed and his energy."
That talent package earned Paajarvi-Svensson the No. 2 ranking by Central Scouting in its final rankings for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
"I think the guy that is the most difficult to me is Magnus Paajarvi, because he always tries to trick you, fool you," Robin Lehner
, Central Scouting's top-rated European goalie, told NHL.com. "I don't think he has the most powerful shot, but he doesn't have to shoot as hard as other people to score, he just knows where to shoot them."
North American fans got their first look at Paajarvi-Svensson at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa, when he had 2 goals and 5 assists, and set up Sweden's lone goal in the gold-medal game.
"The attention and all the media and all the crowds, that was something I couldn't believe," he said. "It was something that I had to learn. I think that was a good experience … it was overwhelming. All the media was crazy, the crowds were crazy."
He also got a taste of life on the smaller, North American ice. Some European players might struggle with the adjustment, but Paajarvi-Svensson said he enjoyed it.
"I played in the men's league and I can take hits, for sure. I feel comfortable taking hits. I can deliver a hit if I want to. The physical game will not be a problem for me."
-- Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
"The style I have in the game, I think that helped me, the smaller rinks," he said. "I didn't have to adjust so much. I think it helped me with the rushes. The game is much more faster, you get much more difficult situations, and I think I'm that kind of player."
He also didn't mind the physical play that came with the North American style.
"I played in the men's league and I can take hits, for sure. I feel comfortable taking hits," he said. "I can deliver a hit if I want to. The physical game will not be a problem for me."
"He can play physical, he's big and he's strong," fellow Swede Victor Hedman
told NHL.com. "He liked it. I don't see anything that can stop him from playing on the smaller rinks."
Paajarvi-Svensson said that could happen as soon as the 2010-11 season, after he finishes the final season of his deal with Timra.
"I think I can play in the NHL next year for sure," he said, "My plan is to take a bigger role in Timra and the elite league and have a bigger responsibility on my team, be a guy that the team can rely on. That's my plan, but I'm pretty open."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com