The Prodigal Prospect

Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS

What the Blues have in Magnus Paajarvi? Now I know what you’re thinking: Paajarvi’s hardly a prospect. He’s in his 4th season with the Blues, so really he’s a veteran.

Ever since he scores only 6 goals in his first season after being traded from the Oilers, I thought he was a fringe forward who had potential, but had trouble putting it all together. That realization was especially disappointing because I hoped he would play like a scoring line winger. The Oilers had so many great forwards, and I was excited that the Blues got one, even one low in the lineup like Magnus.

He hasn’t been a fixture in the lineup, as the Blues have had pretty decent depth at forward. And they’ve been relatively healthy. Injuries are unfortunate when they occur, but they do provide opportunity for younger players trying to make their mark. That’s changed this year.

With Stastny dealing with minor injuries more than once, and Fabbri lost for the season, and with the injuries to Lehtera and Jaskin, Paajarvi finds himself in a third-line role. And this time, he’s producing.

Magnus’s 8 goals in 24 games is just 1 shy of his total goals in his Blues career the past 3 seasons. He’s on a full-season pace of 25 plus. His hands have looked sure. Did you see his 2nd goal in the Vancouver game? He ripped it past Miller with authority. He’s been in the right place at the right time, and he’s developed wonderful chemistry with Barbashev.

His production has fortified a team in the middle of the playoff chase. You might think a team that trades away a top defenseman and loses 4 forward to injuries for multiple games would be sinking fast in the standings, but the Blues have surged here late in the season. And Paajarvi is a big part of that.

He’s certainly not making the Blues’ decisions regarding the expansion draft any easier. He’d have to be protected, due to his years of service. Finding a protected spot for him among the forwards is going to be very difficult. With his production this season, and young age still (25), he’d be tempting fruit for Las Vegas’ player basket.

I hope, though, that he’ll continue his production, and lock himself into a top 9 role next season. He’s a great fit for the Mike Yeo-coached Blues now, and perhaps for years to come. Maybe he’s finally making that stride to becoming an impact NHL player.

Thanks for reading.

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