January 15 2013 09:01AM
Magnus Paajarvi’s place in the Edmonton Oilers’ rebuild has fluctuated significantly since the team drafted him with the 10th overall selection at the 2009 NHL Draft. On Monday, new head coach Ralph Krueger made it clear how he envisioned the talented Swede contributing to the team, both this year and into the future.
The player that Krueger highlighted was Ryan Jones. After acknowledging that the two players had different skillsets, Krueger stressed that Jones’ ability to play any role was exactly what the team needed to get from Paajarvi:
If you think of Jonesy last year, jumping into the power play, playing penalty kill, going in front of the net, being on breakouts, he was a multi-player. I believe Magnus Paajarvi’s somebody who could play up the lineup eventually, but he could give you some penalty-killing time. That’s what we’re working on with him, really to widen his horizons – he came from a very offensive past – and you often will have players like that need some time to evolve.
It’s a view that few Oilers fans would likely disagree with these days. Paajarvi is blessed with significant talent – he can skate with practically anybody in the game, he has the frame of a power forward, and his skills with the puck are undeniable – but in both the NHL and AHL has seemed unable to score consistently. What he has done is impressed with his willingness to back-check and his commitment to getting to the defensive zone ahead of the play – ideal qualities in a defensively responsible forward.
Unlike a lot of defensive forwards, however, Paajarvi has real offensive abilities, even if the numbers haven’t matched the skillset to this point in his career. His ability to carry the puck up ice is an asset on any line, as is his vision. When Ralph Krueger says that he eventually envisions him as “Ryan Jones on a good day” – i.e., a more talented version of the Oilers’ current utility winger – he’s talking about a player who might primarily play a third-line role but who has the necessary range to handle whatever assignment the team asks of him.
For now, though, Paajarvi’s being asked to work on his versatility and penalty-killing while filling a less glamorous role – that of AHL call-up. While agreeing that the injury to Ryan Jones creates an opportunity, Krueger also emphasized that Paajarvi at this point is mostly seen as a replacement option rather than an everyday NHL’er. Part of the camp, he explained, was identifying which players would be brought up in the event of injury:
We have to be prepared also for what are we going to do if things happen, who is going to come up. Even players who return to Oklahoma City this weekend don’t need to be disappointed; they know they’re in the mix and very quickly we could need them. Magnus would be exactly that kind of a filler player who we could see in a lot of different roles.