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Patrik Laine has long been considered a top five prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft. However, a breakout performance at the World Junior Hockey Championships, where he helped lead Finland to the gold medal; and a strong second half of the SM-Liiga season for Tappara have solidified him as the second best prospect for the draft. Laine was tremendous at the World Juniors with seven goals and 13 points in seven games in the tournament. He took his success and brought it back to his club team in the Finnish Sm-Liiga where he had 17 goals and 33 points in 46 games playing in the country’s top men’s leage. He was invited to play in the European Hockey Tour with the Finnish National Team, becoming the youngest player ever invited to play for the Senior National Team in Finland. An interesting decision to come will be if Finland sends Laine to the Under 18s, or if he continues to hold a spot on the Senior team for the men’s world championships. With some players who miss the NHL playoffs now eligible for the Finnish team, it will certainly be tougher to make the squad.
Patrik Laine Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #2
Left Wing — shoots Right
Born Apr 19 1998 — Tampere, Finland
Height 6.03 — Weight 200 [191 cm/91 kg]
Laine is not quite as fast as some of the other prospects at the top of this draft class, but he is not slow. He shows above average speed and quickness, but its not off the charts like some of his peers. One thing that stands out though is that Laine has a very powerful stride. He is able to fight through checks and get to the front of the net, or win battles along the boards due to a strong lower body and excellent balance. His start up and acceleration are good for a forward his size. He could stand to work on his agility and ability to make quick cuts.
Laine has a heavy shot, with an excellent release and that will help him score goals now, and at the next level. He is a high volume shooter who puts things on net whenever he gets the opportunity. His shooting arsenal is diverse, with a good wrist shot, snap shot and one-timer. While he is a shoot first type of player, Laine also has very good vision and the ability to pass through small openings.
He does get involved physically and can throw some huge hits on the forecheck, but this is something he only does occasionally. Most of the time he is content to apply pressure, create turnovers, and get involved with, and win, board battles. This may be even more effective in terms of gaining and maintaining possession than throwing those huge hits. Laine has very good hockey sense and understands how to find openings in an opponents defense. Laine has good hands and uses his body to shield off defenders and protect the puck in the cycle game.
Laine has already shown a knack for work in the defensive end of the ice. He is not afraid to battle for pucks along the boards in his own end of the rink, or to use his big body to block shots. He cuts down passing lanes and plays strong positional hockey. This helps him to create turnovers and start a quick transition to the other end of the rink.
Laine has the potential to be a top end winger in the NHL. While he has some issues to work on, he has the rare combination of a deadly shot, ideal NHL size, the ability to win board battles, and the offensive instincts to be a top end goal scorer. In terms of a comparison, he plays a similar style to Rick Nash, although it should be cautioned that this is a stylistic comparison and not one based on talent. Laine looks to be extremely close to NHL ready, and with a summer of continuing to add strength and muscle to his frame, could be playing in the league as early as next season.
Below are some highlights of Laine in action.
Check back tomorrow for the number 3 prospect on our draft board.