Our number two ranked prospect started the season rated as the third best prospect in the draft, only to have a historic season and push himself to second (and have some discussing him as a possible first) rated prospect for the 2016 NHL Entry draft.
Hailing from Tampere Finland, the elite goalscorer Patrik Laine comes next in our prospect profile series.
Birthplace: Tampere, Finland
Frame: 6’4, 201 lbs
Draft Year Team: Tappara (Liiga)
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Laine is everything you want in a high-skill power forward. (…) He’s equally adept at being a playmaker as he is being a goal scorer. Laine’s offensive IQ is high-end, bordering on elite. He’s a very creative puck handler who anticipates pressure well, and knows how to create space for himself. He moves the puck quickly with few errors.
A natural scorer, Laine’s greatest asset is his intimidating shot. He’s not a speedy skater, but possesses power and a long stride, and protects the puck well with his large frame and longer stick. Overall, skating has been a minor issue through Laine’s development but has improved with some help from his ability to read the game. Laine has the hunger to create chances on his own from the wing and actively looks for and creates opportunities to use his shot. His elite wrist shot is notable for its quick release and his powerful one-timer from the top of the circle is a constant threat on the man-advantage.
Laine won the Jari Kurri Trophy as MVP of the playoffs in Liiga, Finland’s top league, with 10 goals and 15 points in 18 games for league champion Tappara. Laine also won the MVP at the 2016 World Championship while helping Finland win the silver medal and will play for Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Laine already has NHL-ready size and talent, which he again showed by winning MVP of the World Championship. He should step into a top-six role next season.
In all honest, Patrik Laine has been in the limelight for so long this season and the coverage of him so in-depth that really a lot of what could be said has already been said many times. Laine is an elite prospect and pretty much everyone knows it.
Laine combines blue-chip skills with well above average size and strength, while performing at historically exceptional levels on multiple stages. Because of these reasons, we find statistical model of pGPS to have no opinion on the player with no statistical cohort. Never before has a 17-year-old dominated the Liiga while standing four inches above six feet tall with a similar birthdate.
Even the most casual draft followers know of Laine’s goal scoring prowess. Many have heard or even seen Laine’s shot release, that would likely already be one of the better shots in the league. Almost everyone has heard about Laine being able to overpower opponents with his sheer size and strength. There’s not much new to be said there.
There are some things though that may be news to many.
For starters, Laine is a shot volume fiend. Wherever Laine goes, whatever league or tournament he is in, Laine likes to direct the black disk at the net.
Laine was the seventh highest forward in the Finnish Liiga in terms of shot generation with 253 shots directed at the net in 46 games played. This also placed Laine first overall for rookies, 13 more than second place despite playing 11 fewer games. Laine generated about 37 percent more shots per sixty minutes than draft peer Jesse Puljujarvi. Laine also lead all players in the playoffs with 112 in 18 games, with no other player shooting more than 83 shots.
In the so-called “19-year-old tournament” Laine came second in the World Juniors with 27 shots on goal in seven games, and then followed that up this summer lead the entire World Championships in shots on goal.
The Liiga also tracks “advanced statistics” on their league page. Laine played for a below average Corsi percentage team that only controlled about 48.2 percent of the shots, while the team controlled 53.3 percent with Laine on the ice. The young winger improved his team’s control by nearly five percentage points with a very neutral faceoff deployment usage.
While there has been talk about Laine’s “cockiness” or “swagger” (depending on who you talk to), it should be noted that Laine is also immensely driven and not satisfied where he currently stands. Laine has noted himself that skating is a weakness of his (despite still being a fairly strong skater) and wishes to improve upon this area over the summer.
In short, Laine as a prospect is very much exceptional. He deserves to be one of the top prospects selected in the 2016 draft and in conversation with Auston Matthews when discussing who will be the best from the draft. Anything can happen, but he does seem to be special.
Some scouts have projected Laine to be the best goal scoring winger since Alexander Ovechkin. This is a fairly haughty projection, as Ovechkin has been one of the best goalscorers of all time, let alone just over his time. Will Laine be in conversation with the Great 8? Or will Laine fall to the level of one of the many shot generating scorers: Evander Kane, James Neal, Jeff Carter, Patric Hornqvist, Rick Nash, Max Paccioretty, Patrick Sharp, or Filip Forsberg? Or will he fail to even meet those?
Anything is possible, but there seems to be something special that makes you excited for what may come.