Young Finn needs time to adapt to NHL
There hasn’t been a buzz around a Winnipeg Jets draft pick like this year since the old Jets picked a skinny young kid from the Cornwall Royals named Dale Hawerchuk first overall 35 years ago.
And rightfully so. Few players come with the kind of pedigree and list of accomplishments that Patrik Laine lugs with him from Finland. He just enjoyed a hockey season that is almost unparalleled by previous draft choices, including MVP performances in the Finnish Elite League vs men and at the World Championships against some of the best men in the world.
Laine already has one of the top shots in the NHL before even playing a single game and Jets fans are licking their lips at the prospect of watching him unleash one-timers from the off wing on the power play.
Some fans have already been projecting the young player to have a 30-goal rookie season and walk off with the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. It is completely plausible that happens, but it isn’t likely.
First of all, this young man is still a young man. While the comparisons to Teemu Selanne’s heady rookie season in Winnipeg have already been flying around, Teemu was 22 when he arrived in Winnipeg, not 18.
And while Laine is a beast of a man already, he is still young and still a rookie. A 30-goal season is no easy feat in today’s NHL, nor is winning the Calder Trophy.
Everyone hopes to see Laine have success, but fans need to keep expectations in line with reality. If Laine even gets to 20 goals, that in itself will be impressive, and a springboard towards the 40 or 50-goal campaigns some are suggesting he will one day have.
There is also the reality of adjusting to the North American game and the much smaller North American ice surface. This isn’t an easy adjustment, and we’ll get an early look at how he handles it while he suits up for Finland during the World Cup of Hockey in September.
The smaller ice surface won’t allow him to find time and space quite so easily, and he’ll have to work hard to earn it. All indications are that he will be up to the task, but the proof will be in the pudding.
And, he’s not perfect. While the vast majority of what Laine brings to the table is impressive, there have been some suggestions made by some scouts that his skating can still be improved. But you can’t teach the kind of shot and offensive instincts Laine has, while skating can be easily improved through hard work.
There is no denying that this year’s incarnation of the Jets will be their most talented team to date, with a very healthy dose of youth. How that youth, including Laine, handles the big time pressures of the NHL grind will play a huge role in how much success the Jets enjoy this season.