Today’s Pilot’s Logbook looks at Finnish superstar Patrik Laine. Laine had a tremendous season once again and built off his successful rookie year by posting new career highs in almost every category. Not only did Laine score with regularity but he also provided plenty of entertainment throughout the year including a crash course in video games and a facial hair growing contest with his cousin back in Finland.
#29 – RW
6’5″ / 206 lbs / Age: 20
Current Contract Status: Signed through 18-19 ($925,000/yr)
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PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
Patrik Laine does one thing extremely well. Quite obviously that one thing is scoring goals as he finished second in the NHL in goal scoring this past year. The man who beat him was his childhood idol and arguably the best pure goal scorer the league has ever seen, Alexander Ovechkin. The comparison between the two players are obvious. Both have outrageous shooting ability combined with sheer size and strength. While Ovechkin was more dynamic in his younger years with his speed as well as his shot, the older Ovechkin is actually more similar to the current Laine based on skating ability and how the goals are scored, not to mention how they set up on the power play.
There was some concern that Laine wouldn’t be able to continue his torrid scoring pace and shooting percentage after last season, but Laine proved all the doubters wrong by lighting the lamp again and again. Laine was at his best near the beginning of March as he scored a mind-boggling 16 goals in only 12 games including a stretch of three games where he scored eight goals.
Laine’s shot has only improved year over year which is evident when looking at the power play numbers. Laine scored 20 of his 44 goals on the power play which led the entire league. His incredible offensive awareness paid off by the end of the season and put him with some pretty elite company.
Patrik Laine is the 3rd player in NHL history to score at least 80 goals as a teenager, joining Jimmy Carson and Dale Hawerchuk. pic.twitter.com/03PHPF7VU7
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 4, 2018
There are a few other areas that stand out when looking at the past season. Despite playing a full 82 games compared to last year’s 73, Laine’s 5 on 5 numbers declined. Laine scored twelve more goals overall this season but had three fewer at even strength. This could be caused by his skating ability which is one of the issues that has plagued Laine in his young career. While not a bad skater, Laine’s acceleration needs some work as he takes too long to reach top speed and finds it tough to create open space.
The other big issue with Laine’s game is his work along the boards. Laine has an extremely tough time getting the puck out of his own end which is surprising for someone with so much talent. When the puck is rimmed around the boards, it takes Laine too long to bring it to from his skate to his stick and he gets hemmed in by pinching defensemen. When Laine is able to chip the puck past the defender he can’t create odd-man rushes due to his lack of acceleration.
Both of these lead to a third problem which is Laine’s underlying numbers. Laine’s advanced stats are mediocre and he is unable to drive a line by himself. This has not caused a problem so far because his most frequent linemate was Nikolaj Ehlers whose dynamic speed can create chances on it’s own. This combination works really well, especially when Stastny came to town and was able to use his passing ability to transition the puck from Ehlers to Laine.
The nice thing about these types of issues is that they can usually be fixed with practice and training. Laine should be able to quicken his acceleration by hitting the gym and he will also be able to work along the boards and get more comfortable with the transition game during the summer. The other thing to keep in mind is that Laine is a second year player who is only 20 years old. Most players have a few extra years in junior and a year or two of seasoning in the AHL to work on these details before getting thrown into the NHL.
One of the best parts of Laine’s game is his ability to have fun. This has repeatedly been shown by his celebrations on the ice or his antics off of it. The biggest piece of evidence that proves Laine has some personality was on his face. Yes, I am talking about that beautiful, scraggly, beard that kept growing all season long just because of one simple bet with his cousin in Finland. The beard made even bigger headlines in March when Laine took a high stick in the chin and his first priority was keeping the beard safe.
I asked Patrik Laine about how he was able to save his beard after taking a high-stick and suffering a gash on his chin against Nashville. Clearly he didn't want to lose the beard. Here's his response: #NHLJets#NHL pic.twitter.com/2uqmtW1Q1D
— Ted Wyman (@Ted_Wyman) March 27, 2018
Laine started the playoffs strong by scoring a goal in each of the the first two games and tallying four points total in the first three games against the Wild. Laine continued to perform well against the Predators where he only scored one goal but added five assists in the seven game series.
Things started to go off the rails against the Golden Knights, but to be fair, no one was scoring against Fleury at the other end. Laine did manage to score two goals by the end of that series which gave him at least a goal in every series and proved he could perform in the playoffs. Unfortunately the Jets being eliminated left the NHL without a very intriguing storyline for the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ya know… Patrik Laine vs childhood idol Alex Ovechkin would have been a really neat storyline for a Cup Finals..
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) May 24, 2018
The future is extremely bright for the 20 year old sniper who still has another year left on his entry level contract. Laine will almost certainly sign a long term deal with the Jets and is eligible to sign as early as July 1st, 2018. This new deal wouldn’t start until the 2019-20 season so the Jets can sleep easy knowing that they own the player who costs the least per goal scored for one more season (Laine was paid $21,022.73 per goal compared to Ovechkin who made $194,662.49 per goal last year).
Some people are speculating that Laine could earn close to $10 million per year on his next contract. While this might be a little bit high, there are very few comparable players to Laine with the best match being Stamkos at $8.5 million, Tarasenko at $7.5 million or Benn and Ovechkin who are near $9.5 million mark. Regardless of the comparable players, there are two things for certain. There is only one Patrik Laine, and Laine will be getting a massive raise in one year’s time.