Magnus Paajarvi didnít quote Petr Klimaís famous line about needing ďan awfully long stick to score from the press box,Ē but heís been up there enough to realize itís a million miles from scoring position.
For a blue-chip prospect who spent his whole life in the middle of the action, itís the worst seat in the house.
So when Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini told Paajarvi heís going from a spectator in the NHL to a top-six forward in the minors, he had one foot in the cab before the conversation was even over.
ďI feel excited and anxious to go down there and play, play a lot,Ē said the Swedish sophomore. ďItís important that I play. Iím still so young, being in the press box or playing on the fourth line, like Iíve been doing lately, is not developing.
ďEspecially not for me; I want to be on the top lines. I think itís really important for me to play and right now thereís not many spots open so I think itís good for me that I go down ó I really feel itís going to benefit me. To be honest Iím not too sad about it.Ē
Thatís the kind of maturity the Oilers knew they were getting when the selected him 10th overall in 2009. This isnít Linus Omark, a week into his demotion, making veiled threats about going back to Sweden if heís left in the AHL too long. This is a player willing to do whatever it takes to get better.
ďHe was impressive today,Ē Tambellini said of their exit meeting. ďI feel reassured that heís going with the right frame of mind of what a pro really is. At 20 years old, thatís impressive.Ē
They all know this is for the best ó players play, and if heís not going to play up here, then Oklahoma is where he needs to be.
ďFor him to be in the press box at age 20, or playing only on the fourth line, limited minutes, I donít think itís right for him or right for the team,Ē said Tambellini. ďHe just needs to get back, feel the puck and experience again what itís like to play 25 minutes and be exhausted from the game, not from the post-game workout.Ē
He had a strong rookie season, 15 goals and 19 assists in 80 games last year, but while Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle managed to escape the sophomore jinx, Paajarvi couldnít make it three-for-three.
He was a healthy scratch six times this season and didnít get much done when he did play ó just three assists in 25 games.
ďHis work ethic off the ice is impeccable,Ē said Tambellini. ďHe came to camp as the second most fit person in the entire organization.Ē
But with Ryan Smyth filling a spot on left wing and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins turning Sam Gagner into a winger, the depth chart got more competitive and Paajarvi lost the battles.
ďYou have to be honest with the fact that, yes, thereís more depth, but itís also up to the player to be able to find a way to grab your ice time, to grab your spot, and right now itís not there for him,Ē said Tambellini.
Thereís now timetable on how long heíll be down in Oklahoma. The only promise anyoneís making is that heíll be back.
ďIíll go down there to develop and I feel great about it,Ē he said, adding heíll return a better player because of this. ďI want to play the power play, I want to play 15-20 minutes, thatís where Iím at my best and thatís where I want to be. When I do that, Iím a big part of the team. I know I can be that player up here eventually.Ē