Hockey, Men's Varsity, Sports

Patrik Laine’s strong start to season has Jets hopeful for playoffs

Twenty-four years ago, Teemu “The Finnish Flash” Selanne set a record for goals scored (76) and points earned (132) by a rookie in his debut season for the original Winnipeg Jets during the 1992-1993 season. The Jets appear to have once again found a young Finnish sensation in 19-year-old rookie Patrik Laine.

The Finland-native currently leads the league in goals with 12, including a pair of hat tricks and five powerplay goals. After scoring a goal in his opening game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Laine has continued to impress and with 18 points in 21 games—the rookie is on pace to score 70 points this season. Along with teammate Mark Scheifele, who is tied for the league lead in points, Laine is part of a dangerous first line that has been responsible for most of Winnipeg’s offence this season.

The Jets currently sit in third place in the Central Division–arguably the toughest in the NHL–and have clearly improved on last season. Since Patrik Laine’s arrival the Jets are now in 16th place in the NHL and hold the 21st-best powerplay; though not stellar, it is a marked improvement over 25th place and the worst powerplay last season. Laine has played a significant part in the revival of the Jet’s powerplay. With a lethal shot, he is usually placed at the blue line and has become a weapon that has generated more scoring chances for the Jets power play, accounting for 45 per cent of its goals.

Laine will need to continue at this pace for the rest of the season if the Jets want to make the playoffs—a tall task for a first-year player. While he had been scoring at a prolific rate, Laine needs to work on his defensive game, as he currently holds a plus-minus of -1, erasing his gains on offense. Early indications suggest that Laine have every opportunity to excel—he currently averages 19 minutes of playing time per game. The Jets needed a player who could have an immediate impact and so far they have gotten what they wished for. 

Laine’s success in the NHL should not come as a total surprise. Prior to his NHL career Laine was named most valuable player of the 2016 IIHF World Championships. Going up against NHL players, he finished with 12 points in 10 games, second most in World Championships history for an U19 player at the World Championships, behind only Sidney Crosby. He also led the tournament in scoring with seven goals. 

It is unsurprising that before the NHL draft, Laine believed he should be the first pick. His season has justified his confidence—he has outplayed the first overall pick Auston Matthews, who sits five points behind Laine.

Jets fans are hoping to see the second incarnation of “The Finnish Flash” lead them to the playoffs. So far, Laine has answered the call. Winnipeg appear to be on the right path and Laine looks like he can be the face of the future for the Jets.

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