New Blues winger hoping to make good impression; prospects tourney begins Thursday

News-DemocratSeptember 4, 2013 

— During his time with the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester saw a lot of new Blues winger Magnus Paajarvi.

"The first thing that jumps out is he's a real good skater," said Bouwmeester, who joined Paajarvi and most of the rest of the team Wednesday for an informal practice session at St. Louis Outlet Mall. "He uses his speed and he goes to the net, he does a lot of good things not necessarily with the puck.

"He backchecks and does those things that sometimes goes unnoticed. Overall he's a pretty solid player."

That's what the Blues were hoping for when they acquired Paajarvi from the Edmonton Oilers earlier this summer in exchange for enigmatic winger David Perron.

Paajarvi was excited to begin bonding with his new teammates.

Both he and Perron are former first-round picks. Despite his 6-foot-3, 208-pound frame, Paajarvi may have been a bit overlooked in Edmonton where he was surrounded by so many other high draft-pick forwards.

"There's a lot of young, skilled fast forwards on that team ... it's an unbelievable team and I think they're going to be a winning team very, very soon," Paajarvi said of the Oilers. "It's a tough competition there, absolutely, but I think I had a way better year last year than the year before.

"Personally I feel way better this season and hopefully that's going to keep going."

The NHL's 10th overall pick in 2009, Paajarvi had nine goals and 16 points in 42 games with the Oilers last season. He has 26 goals and 58 points in 163 games.

"Definitely my skill level is there and my scoring level is there," Paajarvi said. "I've proven it before and I have full confidence in myself that I have it. Maybe I had to take a different role because we had so many super-skilled offensive guys, but when you're on a team you've got to do what's best for the team, right?"

Paajarvi and Blues center Patrik Berglund previously enjoyed some success together when playing for their native Sweden at the world championships.

"We played good through that world championships, but it's not a season," Paajarvi said. "It's two or three weeks I think we played together. Maybe you can't make too much out of that, but definitely the chemistry is there. I would love to play with him."

Both Paajarvi and the Blues are hoping a new environment will help elevate his game.

"I wasn't disappointed (about the trade), I was more shocked because I didn't expect it," he said. "Then it kind of grew on me and now it feels great, coming to a winning team, a positive and winning attitude all the time ... I think that's a good thing, it can never be a bad thing."

Bouwmeester mentioned Paajarvi's ability to play a two-way game and not just focus on defense.

"I came into the league very, very offensive and now I'm both ways," Paajarvi said. "That's an asset that I got last year and hopefully I'll keep doing what I'm doing."

Prospects tourney looms

A Blues team headed by top prospects Ty Rattie, Jani Hakanpaa, Dmitrij Jaskin, Joel Edmundson and goalie Jordan Binnington are headed for Traverse City, Mich., for the annual NHL Prospects Tournament that begins Thursday.

The Blues take on Dallas at 7 p.m. Thursday, Minnesota at 4 p.m. Friday and Detroit at 7 p.m. Sunday, with another game Monday determined by pool play.

Hakanpaa was named the Blues' captain with Jaskin and Edmundson as assistants.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how these three guys bring this group together," Armstrong said. "All have been leaders at previous times. I'm also looking to see a young player like Ty Rattie.

"The reality is that Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin are the players that are talked about the most, that have produced the most at lower levels, that have an element to their game that is exciting to our organization. I want to see how they perform against their peers."

Armstrong and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will both be at the tourney.

"No one is going to make the NHL or not make the NHL in Traverse City," Armstrong said. "But you get a chance to make a good first impression."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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