Back on draft day 2009, the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs were just outside the "top drawer" zone and well inside a group of 7 or 8 quality players ranked 7-15. The Leafs chose Nazem Kadri, Edmonton went with Magnus Paajarvi–and since then, both fanbases have been waiting for their arrival. Did the lockout finally give them a chance to settle in and find the range?
Way back in 2009, the Leafs were sitting at #7 overall and on the lookout for an impact player. The names available were Kadri, MPS, Jared Cowen, Scott Glennie, Ryan Ellis, Dmitri Kulikov. There was a famous exchange between Brian Burke and Bryan Murray (Ottawa) at the draft; The Sens wanted to move up and take Kadri, but that was the fellow Brian Burke had his eye on. Poor Kadri. Had the Senators drafted him, the player wouldn’t have as much pressure on him. An article in the Toronto Sun in September 2010 gives us a nice glimpse into management’s feeling toward the player:
- “He needs to realize the battle he’s in,” Wilson said after the Leafs’ 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers. “We’re not giving him the job. He has to outperform at least two or three of those four to earn a spot.”
Kadri would turn 20 two weeks later. Since that day, Kadri has been close to a point-per-game player (102 points in 113 games) and has been up to the NHL a few times (51, 8-11-19). This season, with no NHL to focus on, Kadri has emerged as a quality offensve option:
- Overall: 21, 6-15-21 1.00ppg
- Evens: 21, 5-8-13 .619
- PP: 21, 1-7-8 .381
- PK: 21, 0-0-0 .000
That’s a nice line from Kadri. He’s a skill player with good speed and hands, maybe a little shy in the size department but also possessing some ability to agitate. Credit to Leafs’ management, with maybe a small hat tip to the lockout, for being patient enough to allow the young man to find his way.
And for crying out loud don’t trade him!
In the fall of 2010, Magnus Paajarvi made the NHL Oilers and scored 15 goals as a rookie. Paajarvi saw significant time on the PP (3-6-9, 11th best total for rookies that year) and at evens (12-13-25, 12th best total for NHL rookies 10-11). However, Paajarvi got lost in the mix the following season and ended up in OKC trying to regain his confidence and scoring touch.
This season, it was thought that Paajarvi might get a chance to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopins and Jordan Eberle on the top line, and he did for a game. However, early on he was replaced by Teemu Hartikainen and has been playing on the 2line since then.
- Overall: 21, 3-12-15 .715
- Evens: 21, 2-6-8 .381
- PP: 21, 1-6-7 .333
- PK: 21, 0-0-0
Paajarvi is posting good numbers on the powerplay, but the even strength numbers don’t imply a future on an NHL skill line–the same result as a year ago. It is likely (and I think many have felt this way for a time) Paajarvi’s NHL role will be outside the scoring lines. Certainly Teemu Hartikainen has shown to be the more talented offensive player over the long term. Paajarvi’s best position as an NHL player is probably as a 2-way type on a 3line, using his speed on the forecheck and to haul ass on the back check, while chipping in even strength points when opportunities arise.
And he is, at this point, a possible trade asset.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Not everything works as planned. In Toronto, Nazem Kadri looked like a failure in 2010 fall and I believe you can make a case that he’s deserving of a legit shot on a skill line with the Leafs as of this writing.
For Magnus Paajarvi, I believe that opportunity on the skill line has been lost to Teemu Hartikainen, but that the young man might fit well in a secondary, support role. The Oilers may send him away in the next few months, but there’s an opening for a smart speedster on the 3line and Magnus Paajarvi could be a perfect fit.
Lets talk in two more years.