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The Progress Report: Paajarvi Returns

by Travis Knee / Edmonton Oilers
In some ways, we may look at the seasons for Magnus Paajarvi and the Edmonton Oilers thus far and see some key similarities. The first thing that jumps to mind were the high expectations that existed for both the young player and young team heading into this 2011-2012 NHL season. That’s not to say that anyone expected player and team to light the league on fire; no, it was rather a real sense of excitement for the progress that both would be making in the coming year.

Magnus was coming off a solid rookie campaign in 2010-2011 that saw him display moments of brilliance, highlighted by visions of him flying down the wing with that effortless speed that garnered him such attention as a highly-touted draft pick.

The early success of Paajarvi by no means came as a surprise. Magnus had built an impressive resume prior to ever landing in Edmonton. On top of being the fourth youngest player to break into the Swedish Elite league at age 16, Paajarvi had also built quite the international resume.

He was the winner of back-to-back silver medals with Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship in 2008 and 2009. He would finish tied for second in team scoring with seven points (2G, 5A) in six games in the 2009 tournament. He also became the youngest player to take part in the tournament since Sidney Crosby and youngest Swede to play in the tournament. He joined an exclusive list of players capable of playing in the tournament at 16 that includes Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza and Wayne Gretzky.
With all the injuries, now is the time for Magnus to step-up his game.

Although a huge accomplishment, it didn’t come as a major surprise. Magnus after all had modeled his game after a number of great players growing up.

“I try to take small things from a lot of offensive players and try to use that to my advantage”, said Paajarvi.

Paajarvi would finish his first season in the NHL with a solid 34 points (15G, 19A) in 80 games. The Oilers on the other hand were headed towards a second straight top overall draft pick and another potential superstar added to the mix. All things considered, things were looking real promising for both Magnus and the team heading into this past off-season.

After a strong start for the team in 2011, the difficulties of success night in and night out in the National Hockey League started to rear it’s ugly head. This was true for both Magnus and the entire Oilers team as they tried to adjust to the expectations being placed upon them.

Paajarvi seemed to get lost in the shuffle to start this season. He soon found himself dropping down the lineup to the third and fourth lines and even being a healthy scratch on a few occasions. With just three points (0G, 3A) in 25 games, Magnus was sent down to the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL on December 16, 2011.

Now while some players may regress and look down on being demoted from the big leagues, Magnus took exactly the opposite approach. He looked at it as a chance to progress and improve his game, something that spoke volumes to the coaching staff here in Edmonton.

“Magnus couldn’t have been better about it,” explained head coach Tom Renney. “He took the news in stride and saw the opportunity that it presented for him.”
Paajarvi had great things to say about his time in the AHL.

After getting his feet settled in OKC, Paajarvi really played well in his time there. With nine points (1G, 8A) in 10 games, Magnus has been making the most of his opportunity to play big minutes and find his offensive game.

“I definitely have a lot more confidence and was able to do a lot of stuff on the power-play and make some offensive plays, I think that’s exactly what I needed,” said Paajarvi.

With the Oilers now suffering from key injuries to the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi’s hard work and positive attitude have paid off with his recall on January 10, 2012.

The current situation surrounding the Oilers is very different from the one Paajarvi saw to start the year. There will be a real opportunity for Magnus to play well and gain some real offensive minutes with all the injuries. Although he recognizes this, one thing that Paajarvi took from OKC and would like to bring forward, is to just relax and go out and play.

“I think one thing that happened for me there was that I could just play and get that rhythm and timing back and just not think too much,” explained Paajarvi upon his call-up to Edmonton.

There is no doubt that the season so far has been a challenging one for both the Oilers and Magnus Paajarvi. Both have endured their share of obstacles on route to seeing their paths cross once again. The hope for all fans is that this time around the two can progress together.



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