Paajarvi has Big Opportunity in St. Louis
When the Edmonton Oilers selected Magnus Paajarvi with the 10th pick of the 2009 NHL Draft, they thought the scoring touch he showed growing up in Sweden eventually would follow him to the NHL.
It did for a time in 2010-11, when he had 15 goals and 34 points in 80 games. However, with the additions of more explosive offensive teammates in Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, Paajarvi was shifted into more of a lower-line, defensively oriented role, making his offensive opportunities harder to find -- he had 11 goals in 83 games over the past two seasons, each of which included stints in the American Hockey League.
"I was accepting," Paajarvi told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of his changed role. "There's so much offensive talent there it's ridiculous. I took a different role last year and I liked it. I got to play more and I found my role better. It was a good thing for me. That's why I'm here."
His role will change again this season with the St. Louis Blues, who acquired him in July in a trade that sent two-time 20-goal scorer David Perron to Edmonton.
"I got three years of experience and I'm definitely in a way better spot now than the last couple years," Paajarvi told St. Louis television station KMOV. "Mentally, I'm in a way better spot."
He's also in a better spot with the Blues, as Paajarvi will be given a chance to play left wing on a line with fellow Swede Patrik Berglund at center and second-year forward Vladimir Tarasenko at right wing.
"I played with [Berglund] on one World Championship team and Tarasenko is a pretty good player, so it's nice to play with them," Paajarvi said. "You can't try to be someone else. You just have to try to be yourself and if the chemistry is there, it's there. I'm going to do what I'm good at and try to bring that to the table … so hopefully there's some good chemistry there."
While Paajarvi will get the first shot at that second-line left wing role, general manager Doug Armstrong said he will have to earn his ice time.
"Ultimately he's going to have to fight for that ice time," Armstrong told NHL.com. "You look at the left side of our team, it has [Alex] Steen, it has [Jaden] Schwartz, it has [Vladimir] Sobotka, and it has Paajarvi. There's very good competition for ice time in there. Magnus understands he's going to have to come in and earn that ice time."
The Blues also added free-agent left wing Brenden Morrow on Sept. 23.
However, it appears Paajarvi is on his way to earning that spot. Coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch early on that the Paajarvi-Berglund-Tarasenko line has been the team's best during training camp.
"What they do is they play with tempo," Hitchcock told the newspaper. "They play fast offensively and they're very effective because of it. Things are done quickly, and they're a handful for somebody when they play with that type of tempo."
Paajarvi has impressed on an individual level by showing his willingness to get to the net in the offensive zone while not neglecting his defensive responsibilities.
"He's willing to go into the hard areas … to score, but what we need him to do is take pucks off of people," Hitchcock said. "We're going to work really hard in the next two weeks to get him to understand how to use his speed as a checking tool to get the puck more. If we can get that level from him, then he's going to be a really effective player whether he's scoring or whether he's not."