As Capitals fans, we’ve come to expect big numbers from our fearless leader, Alex Ovechkin. The man’s name is synonymous with hockey, and we know at the start of every season that he will be a front-runner, at least in Washington, for the most goals of the season. In the Western Conference however, there is a man who is currently tied with the Great Eight for in goals this season.
That man is none other than Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. As a child, the nineteen year old from Finland had idolized Ovechkin, and on Monday, Laine will square off against his childhood hero at the Capital One Arena. In this Player Profile, we’ll draw a few parallels between Laine and his idol.
A Finnish Start
Patrik Laine has been playing hockey since he was four years old. Originally, he played every position, but his favorite place to be was between the pipes; which is also where he excelled. That’s right, the Finnish boy scoring 40 goals for Winnipeg was originally a goaltender. It wasn’t until he was urged by his father that he left the crease and started shooting at the net, rather than defending it. When he was just sixteen years old, Laine left school to devote 100% of his time and energy to hockey.
Laine made his professional hockey debut in Finnish Elite League (LIIGA) in its 2014-15 season for the Tappara team, where he notched only one point in the six games he played in. The following season, however, he played 46 games and earned himself thirty-three points. (17G, 16A) He also won a gold medal at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. In LIIGA’s 2015-16 season, Laine would win the Jari Kurri Trophy, being LIIGA’s league MVP. Following all this success in Europe, Patrik Laine was drafted in 2016 NHL Entry Draft, second overall by the Winnipeg Jets, were he agreed to his three-year, entry-level contract. This contract expires with the conclusion of the 2019-20 NHL season.
Coming to America
Laine has been in the NHL for only two seasons now, but his presence has already been felt across the league. And while his career has just begun, it is isn’t unreasonable to suggest that he’ll have an Ovechkin-like career of his own. With just fourteen games left in the regular season, Laine has tallied forty goals of his own, and has assisted with another twenty-three, leaving him with a total of sixty-three point; not too shabby for someone in their second season!
Ovechkin leads the young right winger in assists, however. The Great Eight has had thirty-two assists so far this season along with his forty goals, totaling seventy-two points. Monday’s game will be the 69th contest for both teams this season, and Ovechkin will be looking to tally up the last two goals he needs to join the 600 Club. Meanwhile, Laine will surely be looking to upstage his idol on his home ice.
No Sophomore Slump
Patrik Laine is notably gifted when it comes to scoring when the steaks are high. This season alone, he has had seven game winning goals and has racked up a dozen of them in his young career. His 40th goal came in a losing effort against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night. Look familiar?
Laine’s 40th, was the only goal scored by the Jets that night, losing to the team third in the Metro Division 2-1. Laine spoke with the press coming off the loss and one reporter noted that he was tied with Ovechkin for the leading the league in goals. When asked what that felt like, Laine responded: “He’s probably gonna score a couple tonight (against San Jose), but that would be great, I would be honored to tie the league lead with him. But I mean, I hope he doesn’t score”. His face, solemn for his teams’ loss shortly before the interview, was all business. But it’s plain to tell Laine still has a childlike awe and respect for the Great Eight.
At 7pm on Monday night, the Caps will to host the Winnipeg Jets after having a rough, yet salvageable California road trip. Imagine what it must be like to be inside the mind of young man in the prime of his life, doing what he loves to do, and glancing across the ice to see your idol playing opposite you. Patrik Laine is sure to have butterflies tomorrow night when his team clashes with Ovechkin’s. But once that puck drops, all idolizations, friendships, and even brotherhoods, have to be turned off. Both teams are going to be looking to win on Monday, and emotions can’t run too high if Patrik Laine is to remain focused and continue being the asset he has proven himself to be.
The Washington Capitals have had storied success against the Winnipeg Jets. The franchise record is 53-26-5.
By Chris Laroche