Magnus Paajarvi was taken in the 1st round (10th overall) 2009. He represents the highest draft pick from Sweden in Oilers history and may benefit heavily from a change in coaching.
Edmonton did not pick up on the Swedish invasion’s first wave, nor the second. Between 1980 and 1989, Calgary drafted 10 kids from Sweden (including Hakan Loob) while Edmonton drafted two in the same time frame (Lars-Gunnar Pettersson, 9th rd in 1980 and Peter Eriksson, 4th rd in 1987). Between 1990 and 1999, the Flames selected 11 more Swedes, the Oilers two more (Jonas Elofsson, 4th rd in 1997, Tomas Groschl, 9th rd in 1999).
It has been suggested that I notice “draft trends” where there are really only random events, so allow me to rephrase: the randomness of the draft sure as hell impacted Edmonton’s Swedish connections. From their entry to the NHL through 1999–21 drafts–they spent two 4th rd picks and two 9th rd picks on kids from Sweden.
When Barry Fraser left the organization, random events and the luck of the draft swung in Sweden’s favor. Under the KP regime–2001 to 2007, a 7 year span–Edmonton drafted 9 from Sweden:
- Mikael Svensk, 6th rd in 2001
- Fredrik Johansson, 9th rd in 2002
- Mikhail Youkov, 3rd rd in 2003
- Kalle Olsson, 5th rd in 2003
- Dragan Umicevic, 6th rd in 2003
- Bjorn Bjurling, 9th rd in 2004
- Fredrik Pettersson, 5th rd in 2005
- Linus Omark, 4th rd in 2007
- William Quist, 6th rd in 2007
The Youkov pick was especially interesting in that Edmonton used a 3rd rd selection to get him. Since Stu MacGregor was elevated to the top scouting job, Edmonton’s attention to Sweden–especially in the early stages–is solid random:
- Johan Motin, 4th rd in 2008
- Magnus Paajarvi, 1st rd in 2009
- Anton Lander, 2nd rd in 2009
- Oscar Klefbom, 1st rd in 2011
- Erik Gustafsson, 4th rd in 2012
Tre Kronor lives these days right beside donairs, snow, the north wind, demon liquor, beautiful women, Katz’ Batman house and dog parks.
Back to Magnus. In the RE series after the season, I suggested the Oilers needed to acquire a mentor–a Pisani–to show him the way. I’m now thinking the mentor may actually be the coach, Ralph Krueger. His unique life experience may be ideal for Paajarvi and this season there should be fewer roster questions going into the season (Smyth’s role is clear, for instance).
I’m reminded of a wonderful exchange between Gilles Tremblay and Toe Blake. I can’t find the actual item, but Tremblay once told the story that the coach (Blake) and the young prospect had a conversation early in his career. The player told the coach he could count on his in defensive situations (Tremblay as a LW) but he wasn’t a scorer. Blake told the pupil not to worry, he would teach him some things about positioning in the offensive end and where to be to cash.
I’m hopeful Krueger and Paajarvi can have the same kind of relationship, one that will one day see a quote like this from MP’s center:
- Jean Beliveau: Giles’ career with us would last only nine short seasons, abbreviated by an asthmatic condition that robbed the league of one of its most exciting players. Like Ludger (Giles’ older brother), Giles was blessed with unusual upper-body strength and fantastic speed. He had great natural talent and was second only to Bobby Hull at his position. Giles could forecheck and backcheck with the best defensive players in the league, but when the situation required it, he was most dangerous offensively. Toe was once quoted as saying he would not trade Giles straight up for Frank Mahovlich. Giles and I worked a break-in play to perfection. Whenever the slightest opening arose, I’d throw the puck up the left side and let him take it in full stride. Once he got a step ahead of a defender, Giles would leave all but the fastest players in his wake. And while Claude Provost often played Bobby Hull to a standstill, Giles Tremblay could do the same with Gordie Howe…I got more than my share of assists in those days with Giles on my left and Yvan Cournoyer, perhaps the only player in the league who could outskate him, playing right.