Edmonton sends Paajarvi back to minors…again

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The Edmonton Oilers announced they’ve sent three players — Teemu Hartikainen, Taylor Chorney and Magnus Paajarvi — to their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

None of these demotions were surprising given the upcoming All-Star break and the need for these youngsters to get some playing time. But of the three, Paajarvi’s demotion is the most compelling.

The 10th overall selection at the 2009 Entry Draft (taken ahead of Ryan Ellis, Nick Leddy and Marcus Johansson, among others), Paajarvi’s already logged a 10-game AHL stint this season and, based on what David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes, his second could be even longer.

Paajarvi, 20, flashes tremendous speed and skill with the puck, but he’s yet to figure out a way to get close enough to the net to score. He’s no shooter, so he’s going to have to get his goals near the blue paint, but he’s yet to camp out there or barge in on a regular basis.

In his last four games with the Oilers, Paajarvi contributed to just two scoring chances, terrible offensive production for a winger. He’s a smart, responsible defensive player, but he’s got to start using his size and reach to protect and win the puck. Otherwise he’s a plus-sized Robert Nilsson, a tantalizing player, but one who can’t consistently get the job done in the NHL.

“Nilsson” is a borderline profanity in Edmonton and someone you don’t want to be linked to. He, along with Ryan O’Marra and a first-round pick used to draft Alex Plante, were the key components acquired when Ryan Smyth was traded to the Islanders in 2007 — a trade that’s been a disaster for the Oil. Nilsson was a bust (he’s now playing in Russia) while O’Marra and Plante are still mired in Oklahoma. Bottom line, it’s a trade Edmontonians would like to forget.

For a team that’s prided itself on rebuilding through the draft, Edmonton’s first-round record is decidedly mediocre. The Oilers have had seven first-round picks since 2007 — Plante, Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, Riley Nash, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom — and depending on what you think of Gagner (and how Klefbom progresses) it could be said the organization is batting below .500.

Something else to consider: Only two of those seven picks are defensemen (Plante and Klefbom). Given how bad Edmonton’s back-end has been recently and hindsight being 20/20, perhaps a few more of those picks should’ve focused on the blueline.