Patrik Laine has been ripping it up to start this season with the Winnipeg Jets and that’s a very good thing. The 21-year-old has 10 points in five games, including a four-point performance against the Minnesota Wild Thursday.
In 16:41 of ice time across 20 shifts, the Tampere native scored two goals and added two assists. He registered four shots on goal. A game prior, Laine sewed up three helpers against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He’s yet to be held pointless in a game this season.
“I wouldn’t be there without my teammates and my linemates,” Laine said. “I think they’ve done a really good job of giving me some great looks and opportunities. I think my goal for the season was to try to work as hard as I can, every night, every day. I think I’ve been able to do that for the last five games. It’s still not quite there. I’m still working as hard as I can, but I don’t think I’m playing the way I can.”
Believing he can still play better is, of course, the mark of any great athlete. And right now, Laine is playing all the right notes. It was a tricky summer, one that didn’t exactly endear him to the Winnipeg fanbase, but his play over the last five outings is going a long way toward public salvation.
Laine finds himself tied with Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead. The Oilers forward has three goals and seven assists on a dozen shots, while Laine has three goals and seven assists on 16 shots. McDavid and the Oilers have, however, played one fewer game.
The Jets are 3-2-0 this season and Laine has found himself on the top line with Mark Scheifele once more. It’s a far cry from what went down in a calamitous year last time out, with the forward only scoring 50 points in 82 games. That signified a big step back for Laine and things didn’t get much better after the season, with contract talks muddying the waters and some rather confusing statements coming out of Finland as he trained.
One of those statements involved a desire to play on the top unit with Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Head coach Paul Maurice may be fidgeting with his lines during the opening frames of this season, but Laine, Scheifele and Wheeler seem to be a trio worth banking on.
Now before we bank on a complete turnaround for Laine, he’s notorious for hot starts. The wrinkle in this stat-line is the seven assists, a pretty substantial total when you consider he just had 20 assists all last season and has never surpassed 28 helpers in three years.
That might change this season or it might taper off and stabilize, whatever that means.
The more captivating possibility is that we’re seeing a Patrik Laine in the mood to reconfigure and adapt as he still develops into the sort of hockey player he can be. While he still publicly states a desire to be a goal-scorer first, a shift in priorities may not be a bad thing – especially if leads to more team wins and a more well-rounded player.
Photo credit: NHL.com