In the wake of the NHL draft lottery, there has been a lot of talk regarding the teams with the top three selections in the draft. With winger Patrik Laine shining recently in the IIHF Worlds tournament, some believe the Toronto Maple Leafs may have second thoughts on drafting centreman Auston Matthews, the consensus first overall choice. On the other side, some have suggested that Laine’s skating ability is sub-par, meaning he may fall to the Columbus Blue Jackets at pick number three. However, the Winnipeg Jets, owners of the the second overall pick, have him pencilled into their roster, though not everyone is totally sure as to why.
5 Reasons the Winnipeg Jets Will Draft Patrik Laine
1. The Leafs are going to draft Auston Matthews
This one is plain and simple. The woeful Leafs haven’t had a franchise centre since Mats Sundin, whose prime years date back to the 1990’s. Matthews would have been a top three draft pick in 2015 had he been born 48 hours earlier. Rather than choosing the junior hockey route and playing with kids this year—which in all likelihood would have stalled his development—he signed a contract with Zurich SC in Switzerland’s National League A, where he finished third in points per game, playing against grown men. He played like a man among boys, despite being the exact opposite. At the age of 18, Matthews is the most NHL-ready prospect in this draft class and there is no way Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello is going to let him fall into Kevin Cheveldayoff’s lap.
2. Laine is a perfect fit for the Jets’ forward corps
The Jets lack an elite goal scorer, which Laine has the potential to become. Their power play unit’s efficiency was good for dead last in the NHL this year and is screaming for a savior. Winnipeg hasn’t had a player score 30 goals for them in a single season since ex-Jet Evander Kane in 2011. The only thing Laine’s skill set lacks is speed, but this is something Winnipeg has plenty of with the likes of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Mathieu Perreault. Thankfully, at the unripe age of 18, Laine’s skating has room for improvement, while the scoring touch he possesses is a natural ability that cannot be taught.
3. He’s better than Jesse Puljujärvi
Laine was invited by Finland to play at the 2016 IIHF World Championship tournament, while fellow Finn Jesse Puljujärvi was left behind. Don’t ignore what Laine has done there so far, by the way. He needed a measly four games to become the highest scoring 18 year old in the history of the tournament, and currently sits third overall in tournament points with 11 in 8 games. Competing against many NHL players, this has been a sneak preview of what Laine has the potential to accomplish in the pros. Puljujärvi plays a better defensive game, but Laine has a better knack for scoring – the latter being tough to find in today’s NHL.
4. The Jets aren’t going to trade down in the draft
Or at least, it would be absurd if they did. Passing up on a guy with an offensive ceiling as high as Laine’s is a mistake the Jets cannot afford to make. Some would like to see the Jets explore trading the second overall pick for one in the 7-9 range so they can draft a defenseman, something their prospect pool needs more than another forward. While the fact that their organization’s depth is thinner at the blue line holds true, a player with Laine’s scoring ability is something the Jets can only obtain with a pick as high as theirs. Winnipeg is one of the least desirable cities for free agents to sign, so getting a player of Laine’s caliber while they can is an absolute must. With Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers anchoring the Jets’ top defensive pairings (and with Josh Morrissey on the rise to replace the aging Enstrom), the Jets are set up to have an easier time finding third pairing defensemen than finding an elite goal scorer.
5. He’s got swagger
When asked about a cheap shot he received from Corey Perry in Finland’s game against Canada on Tuesday, Laine nonchalantly replied with “maybe they tried to piss me off because I’m young and in my opinion a pretty good player” (CBC Sports). His opinion is fairly accurate. He’s awesome and he knows it.
Make no mistake about it: barring some sort of freak injury, Patrik Laine will be the Winnipeg Jets first round selection in the 2016 NHL draft. The only thing left to do now is watch Finland during the rest of the IIHF tournament and drool over what he’ll soon be bringing to our table.
Laine and Finland lead the IIHF semifinals group and will take on Russia in an elimination game this Saturday.