Magnus put that cue to work this season. He may not have produced at the level of Hall or Eberle, or shown the flashes of brilliance that Omark sometimes did, but Paajavi had a fine season for a rookie. He shall be given a B grade for his year. I already wrote a glowing review of Paajarvi's rookie year, but we'll delve a little further into it this time around.
In reviewing Taylor Hall's rookie campaign we saw that he was able to amass a very large number of shots, and was on pace to have shot totals that only Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Couture and Grabner have had as rookies since the lockout. Magnus Paajarvi was no slouch in the shot department either. He hit the opposing net 180 times this year in 80 games, for a 2.25 shots-per-game average. It didn't always feel like he was shooting so much, but the numbers say Paajarvi was at least directing the puck in the right direction most of the time.
The average Oilers fan would be surprised to know that Paajarvi had at least 5 shots in a game nine times this year, including two games with 8 shots on goal and two games where he had six apiece. He hit the net at least 4 times in fifteen games this season. The only problem is the rate at which he converted all of those shots: 8.3%.
If Paajarvi was scoring at a rate similar to Taylor Hall - or 11.8% of the time - the Swede would have scored 21 goals this year. But he wasn't scoring at that rate, and he only put 15 pucks past opposing goaltenders. It's clear that he has the ability to get to the net and to get the puck to the net as well, but his off season will have to be spent figuring out a way to convert more of the chances that he created for himself. He may have had 8 shots in two separate games this past year, but he didn't score in either of those outings.
Like Hall, Paajarvi's point production increased as the season wore on. The chart below illustrates this:
|Games 1-20||6 Points||0.30 Points per Game|
|Games 21-40||9 Points||0.45 Points per Game|
|Games 41-60||9 Points||0.45 Points per Game|
|Games 61-80||10 Points||0.50 Points per Game|
The difference here is that Paajarvi's production didn't increase by the same leaps and bounds that Hall's did. Paajarvi obviously became more offensive as the season progressed, but it's an open question as to how much of that can be attributed to all of the injuries the team sustained. Prior to Hall's injury in particular, Paajarvi played 18 or more minutes in a game only three times (though he was close a few times). In those last 17 games after Hall got hurt, Paajarvi was on the ice for 18 or more minutes eight times.
Having said all that, it's still encouraging to see that Paajarvi's production was on the upswing over the course of the season, which implies that he was getting more comfortable as the year wore on. The injury bug contributed to his getting more ice time, but it also meant that the quality of his linemates would have been poorer. Therefore, to see him continue to produce and improve his production is a positive, even if he wasn't on the same level as Hall in that regard.
It will be interesting to see how Paajarvi's production is affected by his being more used to the North American game - not to mention living in North America. A reasonable prediction for the young Swede would see him improve to around 40-50 points, but any more than that would constitute a gigantic step forward from this past year. It's possible that he will one day produce more than that, but if he ends up as a 20-30-50 player each year that would be fine for the role the Oilers have in mind for him. Paajarvi's job is to produce secondary offense, and he should have no trouble doing that.
Paajarvi's improvement as a player hasn't been as pronounced as some others on the team, and fans can probably expect that to continue. But as long as there is some improvement in 2011-12, the Oilers will have a fine second line winger on their hands.