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Photo Credit: © Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Laine: “Somewhere Else, I’d Have An Opportunity To Play With The Best Players”

While he’s been an un-signed Restricted Free Agent, Patrik Laine has had some interesting things to say about his current status with the Jets, but Monday night might have been the most startling words yet as ahead of a feature on him in a Finnish magazine previewing the NHL season, Finnish hockey reporter Pekka Jalonen had an interview with the 21 year old winger, he noted that in his mind the way he was used on the Jets wasn’t optimal.

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When you click on the link to the article preview, one other interesting comment leaps out…

Maurice is publicly acknowledged as a fan of Little .

– It’s noticed, Laine says.

One can argue about the merits of Laine’s comments and if they are warranted or not.

On one hand, since his debut in the NHL, he is the sixth highest goal scorer in the league with 110 goals, two goals behind Connor McDavid who places in a tie for third with John Tavares, and 23 goals behind Alex Ovechkin who has 133 goals since the start of the 2016 season. He’s the fourth fastest player to reach 100 goals in his career and has done so with less ice-time than most goal scoring stars in the league get.

One also has to point out that while the Jets have tried to make Bryan Little the second line center for the club, it hasn’t worked out as well as everyone would have hoped. In each of the last two seasons the Jets have traded for help at the second line center spot to play alongside Laine and Nik Ehlers. Two seasons ago it was Paul Stastny which produced some pretty good results before he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights that summer. The following season the Jets traded for Kevin Hayes and while the results weren’t as productive as they were with Stastny the year before, there was again an improvement in play.

We’ve already covered how Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler played all of last season together and how it might be ideal to split them up to spread the talent over multiple lines so it doesn’t seem far fetched to think that Laine may be thinking the same thing as well.

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All this said, it should be acknowledged that Laine still does lack in other areas of the game outside of shooting the puck. As we outlined in our season review, he finished the year with the worst xGoals% on the Jets with 41.8% and second worst Jet in CF% with 45%. His defensive numbers were even worse as the Jets gave up a ton in their own zone when he was on the ice.

If Laine wants to play with the best players, his own play does need to improve. It’s an outright mistake to claim that he is a “lazy player” but a lot more fair to state that he needs to still improve how he plays away from the puck which is something that you’d expect to say about a 21 year old going into just his fourth season in the NHL.

Mark Scheifele is a great example of a player who had the raw talent but needed a few years to have it all develop into the top ten NHL center you see today. Mark had plenty of critics of his own early on in his career and his first 30+ goal season didn’t happen until he was 23 and was in his fourth NHL season.

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In the meantime, Laine’s latest publicized comments do nothing to ease fears that we could be in for a long drawn out RFA process and now stoke new fears that Laine’s days with Winnipeg may be numbered. There was talk that Paul Maurice headed to Finland in the summer to meet with Laine to smooth over “ruffled feathers” but that doesn’t appear to have been all that effective given some of the things that have been said.