What Magnus Paajarvi Needs To Do More Frequently

I’ve recently started re-watching Oilers games from last season, partly for a new statistical project and partly because I like watching hockey games and the AHL season hasn’t started yet. Anyway, watching the Oilers’ season opener, I was struck by the play of Magnus Paajarvi.

Paajarvi stormed down the right wing, blew past the defenceman, and charged the net. He didn’t end up scoring – ultimately he went right past goaltender Brent Johnson and into the back of the net, but failed to take the puck with him – but it was the kind of aggressive, power-forward move that he tries all too infrequently.

Here’s what Sportsnet colour commentator (and ex-NHL’er) Louie DeBrusk had to say about the play:

Great drive wide, and I like seeing this from Magnus Paajarvi. He’s a big body, he’s strong. He came into camp in terrific shape, made great strides in the off-season with his conditioning. He goes right through the five hole of Brent Johnson into the net. You like to see that reckless abandon, driving himself into the net and testing the defence.

Paajarvi had a good game anyway – he was flying all night and spent a lot of time advancing the puck – but that power forward dimension is one he doesn’t always show and if he could add it to his game it could make him a star.

Back to Draft Day

Paajarvi was highly-touted back in 2009, when the Oilers made him the 10th overall pick at that summer’s draft. The reaction of most draft followers – myself included – was surprise that Paajarvi fell to 10th overall, and there was no mistaking Steve Tambellini’s excitement as he made the pick.

Still, there’s a quote from that time period that interested me at the time, one that I’ve mentioned previously. It’s from an anonymous NHL scout, and was included in The Hockey News’ 2009 Draft Preview edition:

With his ability to get around forwards and the way the game is called now, he’ll draw two minor penalties a game with his outside speed. Once he gets not to fear that initial step to the net, it will be huge. It’s just not natural for him yet.

It’s an almost prophetic comment in retrospect; the only problem is that Paajarvi hasn’t learned to drive toward the net on a regular basis, yet. But, now as then, the potential’s there for him to add that move to his repertoire more consistently.

Maybe he won’t. Paajarvi’s a profoundly talented player, even without a power forward mentality – he’s blessed with tremendous skating ability and he has the kind of two-way instincts that very few players his age possess. I think he’s going to be a useful NHL’er for a long time.

But it’s hard, watching him drive to the net as he did against Pittsburgh, not to wonder just how good he could be if he played with just a little more aggression.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • MessyEH!

    Everyone misses that when Magnus was sent down to the minors the first time he came back to the Oilers with a longer stick. So, when he DOES try a cut to the net from the outside, he can’t protect the puck from the defender with his body as well as when he sported a shorter stick. So, he looses the puck because he can’t control it and bring the puck into a shooting position when he needs to.
    I guess a vetran told him to get a longer stick in order to poke check and contribute defensively, but in an offensive, role one needs a shorter stick.

    • DSF

      That is a very astute observation,MMmm.

      My Moma2 told me to always be prepared,so it makes sense that a player would have several different sticks of varying lengths and blade styles and curvatures.
      I dont think Magnuses strength is in cutting from the outside,he is an elite player with a skillset combined with SIZE that allows him to do what he wants,if he chooses he can smash skulls along the boards like Hall wants to,but there are more bigger than faster d-men in the NHL so it benefits Hall to speed down the boards and Magnus with his huge frame to take them down the middle from an up-speed position–more like a huge defensive centerman.

      And maybe a longer stick actually allows MPS to back the d-men up sooner as he runs the boards down the wing or as he drives the middle,a shorter stick lets bigger slower d-men just make contact easier,if you were a smaller man to start with maybe the difference wouldnt be so beneficial but with MPSes already huge wingspan it does make a big difference because it elevates his reach way above average,just inches but wayyy above average.Not everyone can manage that with a small change.And really he can switch sticks any time during games,and players do do that often some more than others.And all make adjustments for various tactical reasons.I mean remember some of the hooks guys had years ago,that they would only sneak out a few times a year.Ha ha ha.

      Magnus specialises on the up-speed style catalysed from behind the flow of the play and he is VERY good at it even better than Hemmer is.The best we have so far. His defensive awareness is so elite a stick length adjustment wouldnt improve that,a lot of other things can be adjusted with a stick change but not overall defensive contributions.I think adjustments like the stick might be made game to game on the fly.Sometimes to shake your game up temporarily and let you see the ice a wee bit differently.But if you dont try it I guess you will never know what it can offer you,but we do know for certain that most NHL players make equipment adjustments through their careers–and mostly for tactical reasons–so there must be something to gain there ,a carrot hidden somwhere.Looks like Magnus is digging for that carrot,he wants every advantage he can generate,Kudos to him for working so hard on his game.

      Imagine the casualties we would see if Sutton decided to use Omarks stick for a half-season,ha ha ha,he would be filling pine boxes because he would be closing distance on guys so fast so often.He would force players to get closer to him and vice versa,ha ha ha.Uber-contact.A longer stick keeps the beast away and at bay,I would rather eat a foot of stick from Andy than an inch of the elbow macaroni he has cookin.

      Magnus using a longer stick actually forces the d-men to read his velocity and his line and angle differently and changes their timing and decision making–it results in them– backing off just enough to let him maximise a lot of his skillset especially his speed.They engage him physically 2-3ft deeper in the zone with longer lumber.As opposed to up high and early .Remember early contact negates his elite speed—and we want to see him use that,not brute force.It may be a subtle equipment adjustment but it shows up on tape.

      I did play floor hockey and remember how different it was with a longer stick,I had more time to utilise my speed somehow,it was easier to start luring players where I wanted to with a longer stick and then correct with a speed burst gear change if i didnt like the angle of attack or something else was wrong.But I have never skated and felt the difference there,I imagine it is multiplied many times over in effect because of the extremely high speed of execution out there on the ice.It seems to me like a good thing getting better on the ice.But I am just guessing on that one.

      “give em an inch–and they take a mile!!” not sure if this applies.

      Just sayin.

      Sorry if my spelling is not up to par,I have a computer with a tiny touch pad ,I have no mouse,and it can be like going to Vegas when I simply log on and try to post things or mess around to much with this little beast,I have tried to use spellcheck and lost enough long posts to develop an issue with the gamble I need to take with this sensitive unit,if I knew how to make it work properly I would do it.But literally to even zip my arrow back up to something to correct it if i see it can send this thing into cyber-convulsions,I can end up right out of the site itself just from trying to dot an I. Hahaha–somehow that feels as lame as the dog ate my homework doesnt it??It is what it is I guess,thanks for your patience.

  • DSF

    Lets face it he is part of the reason Renney is gone . He got royally screwed last year . I’m Canadian but why didn’t this kid get the same breaks as our Canadian kids ????? . Personally I would have signed him to a long term deal as the talent is there and a good deal could have been had . Some may say its a gamble but this kid will make it ..

  • Reg Dunlop

    MPS reminds me of Ron Dugay, without the hair. Decent size, good wheels, defensively responsible and plays like he has eggs in his pockets.Future 3rd liner, and thats not a bad thing.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Put him with quality OFFENCE-MINDED linemates and see what he can do. Put him in a checker’s role, with checkers and ask him to play with a checker’s mentality and you’re forcing him to be something he’s not!

    I am MPS’s biggest fan, IMO. And yes, I read that same article in 2009 Hockey News. I do recognize that his biggest weakness is his inability to play tough.

    That said, as with every player do you work on improving your deficiencies, or do you play to your strengths? Old days it was the former, today players are trained to not only work on – but play to their strengths…rather than make sure everyone tries to be the same complete player (cookie-cutter types). You get much more dynamic skill-sets that way, and MPS has the most dynamic skill set skating and dangling that I have seen in years here in Edmonton.

    Hall will always be a much more physical player – and he is a franchise player. We cannot judge MPS and compare him to a guy touted, for years, to be a #1 overall pick. (I’m not saying anyone is, though) My point is he DOES NOT need to learn to be a crusher to play in the N.H.L. and be effective there. Remember he did win the trophy as the best winger in the World Championships, the same one with Ovechkin and other NHL’ers present. He has the ability to be extraordinary.

    Don’t ask him to be Ryan Jones, Lucic, or any other power forward or you will be disappointed. He never will be. It’s not in his blood. But if you put him with dynamic offensive players and give him a chance he WILL keep improving as he builds a repoire with those players.

    I would ask that you keep two important things in mind when assessing his future potential:

    One, he barely speaks the language – was scripted to play with Omark and Lander last year. His only game with them last year – an exhibition game, he scored two (big) goals and was the game’s first star…the line was unstoppable in that game. With others it appeared he did have trouble communicating and getting in sync. It is on him to improve his language skills and open up in communicating to the rest of the team, even though he is a relative newcomer to our continent and language. It does take some players longer to adjust than others, and I do believe his shyness does make that a more difficult proposition, though.

    Two, he has only been playing forward for a very few years. He grew up as a d-man. So his skating is superb and his rushing skills, sublime…but his finish, and moves around the net are NOT a finished product yet. Give him time to develop them with talented players to learn this. In the meantime do not run him out of town for not being a complete player yet, at 21 years old.

    He has an excellent attitude; his compete level is off the charts – in regards to effort given every shift! He is so defensively responsible it actually hurts his offense at this point of his career, and as a young player that is so rare to find…the opposite of a selfish player!
    He will learn the rest. I think he is the perfect number two winger we have been looking for – once Ryan Smyth and Hemsky are no longer up for that role here.

    Let him develop for that role; he’s NEVER going to be a checker. You’re wasting his considerable talents if that is what you are looking for out of him. I know the Oilers need a power forward but he isn’t one, despite the size he has. That’s not a knock against him; you just need to have that mentality. Don’t punish him for being Kurri when you want Messier (sorry to use those guys as a very poor example, just said it for clarity not as a comparison!)

    I love this player, though, and can’t wait for the Oilers to use him properly!