Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson of the Edmonton Oilers smiles on stage after he was selected #10 overall by the Oilers during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
EDMONTON — Before general manager Steve Tambellini had even stepped up to the podium and announced that Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson was an Edmonton Oiler, the fleet-footed forward knew where he was heading.
All it took was a signal from Kent Nilsson, who is an icon in Sweden and now a scout for the Oilers.
“Just before the pick, Kenta looked at me and just pointed so I knew then. That was pretty cool,” Paajarvi-Svensson said. “I got shaky after that.
“I just started hugging every person I knew.”
With the 10th pick at the NHL’s entry draft, which got underway Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Oilers selected Paajarvi-Svensson — maybe the fastest skater in the class of 2009, definitely the youngest Swedish player to ever play at the world juniors.
He was just 16 when he slipped into the national team jersey in 2008 then he proceeded to register a goal and an assist in six games.
“He plays what we think is Oilers hockey,” said general manager Steve Tambellini. “I like the fact he finds a way to get to the net. I also like the fact he plays with emotion. It was a very easy decision.
“He’s reckless getting to the net. He’s not a perimeter guy.”
Paajarvi-Svensson is the first European the club has selected since they went off the board in 2002 and picked Finnish centre Jesse Niinimaki. This selection should pay dividends.
Paajarvi-Svensson, at 6-foot-1, 198-pounder, is a left-handed power forward who moved down in the final rankings in large part because many wondered if he had enough finish in his game.
However, one scout suggested he would have had 40 or 50 goals had he played junior. He spent last season with Timra of the Swedish Elite League, netting 17 points in 50 games.
He has one year left on that contract so he will continue to hone his game overseas. He will also be eligible to make another appearance at the world juniors.
“I have played with men for two years now and that has helped me a lot,” said the prospect who turned 18 in April. “Just to train with men, to be with former NHLers every day has helped.”
Hockey is a family tradition for Paajarvi-Svensson, whose dad Gunnar played and coached in his homeland. His older brother Bjorn played two seasons with the Saskatchewan Blades, another with the Moose Jaw Warriors (2005-06), then he returned to Sweden to play with Timra.
Magnus had made his elite league debut at the age of 16 and recorded an assist in his first appearance.
“He’ll play in the Swedish Elite League, then we’ll see where his progress is at, and probably bring him over,” said head amateur scout Stu MacGregor. “He’s a great skater. He plays with a competitive edge. He’s a player who plays at a high tempo.”
This was the first time in franchise history the Oilers had the 10th pick. MacGregor said there wasn’t an opportunity to move up into the top five — six was a distant possibility — but in the end, they got one of the players on their short list.
Tambellini concurred that the prospect of moving up to six, by swinging a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes, was an option but in the end, the draft order started to shift so the Oilers elected to stay put. They were not willing to trade down and lose a shot at the Swede.
“When it started to open up, we knew we were going to get one of three players we coveted,” MacGregor said. “We were looking for a forward who could take it to the net and play with some offence. Someone who could compete hard in both ends of the ice.”
Paajarvi-Svensson was ranked second among European skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting (behind defenceman Victor Hedman, who went second overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning).
“He’ll be ready for the NHL very soon,” NHL director of European Scouting Goran Stuff said recently.
“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,” another scout told the Hockey News. “Once he gets to not fear that initial step to the net, it will be huge. It’s just not natural for him yet.”
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