The Winnipeg Jets 2.0 have never drafted as high as second overall before, and with Patrik Laine the city and organization hopes that they have something special.
So far, it seems very likely that this may be the case.
The dynamic goalscoring winger hailing form Tampere Finland is the full package deal.
He brings size, standing at six feet and four inches tall. He knows how to use his size too in both entering the offensive zone with possession and protecting the puck down low in the offensive zone as well. It’s actually amazing to see how effectively Laine uses his strength at only a 201 pound. As he fills out with age, Laine should be able to wreak havoc on the defending opposition. He may not ever be a bruising force on the forecheck, but Laine will be difficult for the opposition to handle.
Laine’s first steps are not remotely poor, although his quickness is definitely his “weakness” (relatively speaking). Laine seems well aware of this, as he discussed wishing to work on his explosiveness over the summer. While some think of Laine’s comments often being that of a cocky or overly confident individual, his comments seem more like one who driven to both improve and succeed.
The winger loves to drive into the offensive zone, and his ability to transition through the neutral zone looks to be an embarrassment of riches for an organization already carrying Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor. While Laine has not always been the one the team defers to in neutral zone transition, he has shown that he can take both the role of support and puck carrier in neutral zone transitions and breakouts.
Laine has good vision and can set up plays, but his best asset is his shot. He can be dangerous from essentially anywhere in the offensive zone and already has a well-above-average NHL release. While his wrist shot coming from sustained possession is exceptional, Laine specializes in getting into the right areas for one-timers from his offhand-wing side. This ability has caused the big Finn to gain stylistic comparisons to players like Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Being a goalscoring winger from Finland set to play in Winnipeg, there has been a lot of talk about certain Teemu Selane and his exceptional rookie season. A 76 goal season though, even when adjusting for era scoring differences, is a bit of an overly ambitious expectation to place on Laine.
There are some reasonable things we should expect though of the winger.
It would be reasonable to expect Laine to slide in naturally into a top-nine or even top-six winger role with above average results for his position in depth. Laine’s strength, top gear, shot, and offensive instincts are already more than NHL capable.
In terms of scoring, NHL Equivalent scoring (depending on which version you use) suggest Laine to score somewhere between 20-35 points. This is a severe underestimate though given the inherent derivation of NHLEs, which look at the typical player to move from the SM-Liiga to the NHL. A better expectation would likely be that of something comparable, if not slightly better, than Nikolaj Ehlers, who put up a 43 point pace at a year older than Laine will be.