Hitchcock raves about Paajarvi, who’s ‘playing the best hockey for us right now’

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On a St. Louis team loaded with talented players, one has stood out above the rest in recent weeks — but it’s probably not the one you’d expect.

“The guy that’s gone unnoticed here is probably the guy that’s playing the best hockey for us right now is [ Magnus] Paajarvi,” Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said, per the Post-Dispatch. “Never mind the best I’ve seen him play.

“He looks like a heck of a hockey player in the National Hockey League right now.”

Having skated recently on a line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny, Paajarvi has gone from an afterthought — he opened the year in AHL Chicago, and spent seven games there — to an integral part of the St. Louis lineup.

He has five points in 23 contests, but two of those have come in his last two games. He assisted on Tarasenko’s game-winning goal against Boston on Tuesday and, against Calgary last week, played a season-high 16:35.

Considering Paajarvi’s career path, what’s happening is a bit of a surprise.

Taken 10th overall by the Oilers in 2009, Paajarvi spent three largely ineffective years in Edmonton (and AHL Oklahoma City) before getting flipped to St. Louis in ’13 for David Perron.

Paajarvi started reasonably well with the Blues — 12 points in 55 games in ’13-14 — but, the following year, was subjected to waivers, cleared, and spent most of his time with the Wolves.

He was waived again at the start of this season and, like the first time, there were no takers.

So it was off to Chicago. Again.

But when injuries ravaged the Blues’ forward group, Paajarvi — who, it has to be said, is still only 24 years old — took advantage of his opportunity, and made himself a lineup regular.

And now it sounds like he’ll be in St. Louis for a while.

“If this is the tempo and the pace and the game that he’s going to bring forward,” Hitchcock said, “he’s going to be a valuable player for us the rest of this year.”