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Laine a hit at first All-Star Game

Rookie honoured to take part, rub shoulders with some of game's greats

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

LOS ANGELES, CA - At age 18, he's already one of the NHL's most naturally gifted goal scorers, with an easy-going, fun-loving personality the league, and the Winnipeg Jets, are lucky to have.

He has 22 goals in 44 games at the time of this writing, is one of the frontrunners for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie as a result, and now, he has just played in his first-ever NHL All-Star Game.

That, in itself, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many.

For Patrik Laine, it's only the beginning.

"The whole weekend was a great experience for me," the rookie said, as reporters from the across the country and around the world looked on, hanging on his every word.

Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine

They, too, know that Laine is not only the future of the Jets, but that of the league as well.

Those of us in Winnipeg already knew. But here in Los Angeles - where the hockey world descended for the weekend to celebrate the sport and its greatest athletes - Laine quickly became one of the most popular players around. His ability is unquestionable. That they knew. They've seen it on the highlights. But what came to light was that bubbly, confident-but-shy personality of his, that dry humour that makes many of us around the dressing room laugh each and every day.

He's an All-Star on and off the ice, and will be for years to come.

"It was amazing to be here at such a young age," Laine said. "I'm honoured. I just want to show everybody that I earned my place here, and to just have fun."

Laine was understandably nervous on Saturday before the All-Star Skills Competition. He'd never before been to Hollywood, had this many eyes on him, or even attended an event of this magnitude.

Every last bit of it was a new experience, and one that this mid-city kid found a little shocking at first.

LA does that.

Video: ALL STAR | Behind The Scenes

In time, he became more and more comfortable, and after showing so well during the skills - earning two of the Central Division's three points - he was having the time of his life. Best of all, he was able to share these moments with his father, Harri, who made the trip down and is now living in Winnipeg for the rest of the season.

"It's pretty special to have him here. It's a big thing for him to be here and see the big world and how everything is.

"It's been awesome."

The game itself didn't end the way he wanted it to, with the Central dropping its only contest by a 10-3 score to the mighty Pacific, but it was a day filled with memories nonetheless.

Forty-four players took part in the 3-on-3 'tournament,' with the NHL100 lining the ice for the pre-game player intros, there was more talent on that one ice surface than there has ever been for any National Hockey League event in history.

These are his peers now.

Laine's first steps on Staples Center ice involved fist-bumps with NHL legends Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Winnipeg legend Teemu Selanne, and literally dozens of other historical superstars that to many us are larger than life.

Tweet from @NHLJets: "From the Winnipeg Jets..." Go get 'em, Patrik! #NHLAllStar pic.twitter.com/eUcThHDYxP

"It was an honour to meet all the legends, and be in the same room with those guys," Laine said. "It was a lot of fun."

Laine finished with one shot, three missed shots and a -3 rating in 5:19 of ice time. On Saturday, he wired a 101.7-mph slap shot, second only to three-time champ Shea Weber, and skated a lap of 13.420 seconds, only three-tenths off the eventual winner, Connor McDavid.

"Maybe in a couple years I'll try and get some more muscle so I can beat (Weber) some day," Laine said with a smile. "I think that was the best I have right now. I have to practice some more."

How old is he again?

Oh, right.

I think he'll be just fine.

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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