Edmonton - July 8, 2013 - During his first three years in the National Hockey League, Magnus Paajarvi has become somewhat of a hot button when it comes to the vast majority of Edmonton Oilers fans.
Some view him as a possible major talent on the verge of breaking out season, while others see him as nothing more than a solid depth player at the NHL level.
With the likes of Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov all ahead of him on the Oilers current depth chart, it should surprise no one to hear his name come up as potential trade bait. Teams across the league see that same potential and would love nothing more than to acquire the twenty-two year old winger.
Many a general manager are hoping Craig MacTavish will start feeling the heat in the kitchen and possibly give up on the talented Swede, in hopes of improving his roster in the here and now. For the sake of the franchise, let's hope it doesn't come to that, as trading away Paajarvi could turnout to be as big a blunder as this organization has made in some time.
For a lineup which is filled with a bunch of "smurf-like" players upfront and in desperate need of adding size into their forward ranks, giving up on a guy who stands 6' 3", weighs in at over 200 pounds and skates like the wind, would seem to be a rather puzzling decision. While the youngster is nowhere near the offensive threat the aforementioned quintet are, it's his overall game that makes him such an intriguing piece moving forward.
Outside of Nugent-Hopkins, Paajarvi appears to be the only one who doesn't need a compass in his own end of the rink. While Eberle and Hall have taken gradual steps forward in their defensive awareness both Gagner and Yakupov look lost on far too many nights. One could argue, with the departure of captain Shawn Horcoff, that the Oilers #91is their best all round forward.
After banging home fifteen goals in his rookie campaign, the former tenth overall pick took a major step back in his sophomore season. While he did struggle with his game, Paajarvi was pretty much the forgotten man in year two. Much of the opportunity he was allotted during year one was handed over to Ryan Smyth, leaving Magnus to fend for himself with far less ice time and inferior players. Difficult at the best times and almost impossible to work through, when you have little to no confidence in your own game.
To his credit, he went down to Oklahoma City and worked on his game for the remainder of the 2011-12 season and start of 2012-13, due to the NHL lockout, ultimately working his way into Ralph Krueger's good books. For the first time in his NHL career,.Paajarvi started to use his speed and size to drive to the net in 2013 and he was rewarded for his efforts, with a spot inside the Oilers top nine and some very timely goals.
People sometimes forget that everyone isn't like Taylor Hall, who has turned himself into one of the best players in the league, after playing just 171 NHL games. Hall is the exception not the norm and while Paajarvi has had his fair share of growing pains, there is definitely a player there...and likely a very good one.
Is he a top line winger or a third line guy? At this moment, it's impossible to tell but his overall skill set and size, point to him maturing into a top six forward. He will likely never lead the Oilers in any sort of offensive category, outside of possibly shorthanded goals, but could turn into that "jack-of-all-trades", which every organization would love to have on their roster.
In my mind, there is no problem with playing a guy with 15-25 goal ability, that draws a ton of penalties and has a defensive conscious, on one of the Oilers top two lines. Is Paajarvi ready for that role in 2013-14, probably not but he likely isn't that far off. Making the idea of shipping him out of town, albeit for a necessary need elsewhere in the lineup, an extremely unpleasant one.
There is no question general manager Craig MacTavish has put the pressure of turning this club into a playoff team, squarely on his shoulders. No one wants to see this thing turn around more than the Edmonton Oilers rookie GM and at some point, he is going to have to part with someone off his current roster to help improve the club. However, using Magnus Paajarvi as the bait to acquire anything short of a true top six forward or top pairing defenceman, entering the prime years of their career, would make little to