WINNIPEG - It was the moment we've all been waiting for.
Three long months after being taken with second pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Patrik Laine took to the ice Monday for the very first time as a Jet, skating alongside the captain, Blake Wheeler, and fellow first-rounder Jack Roslovic in the day's early-morning session.
"It's awesome to be here, finally - and to be here with these awesome players and have a chance to get to know each other, it's great," Laine said.
"I'm having a good time."
Welcome to Winnipeg, kid.
Laine and the Finns were knocked out of the World Cup after losing three straight, including back-to-back shutouts. It was the first time in 29 years Finland's national team went winless at an international senior men's hockey tournament. Still, it was experience the 18-year-old says he will never forget.
"I think the first game - [a 4-1 loss to Team North America] - was pretty tough for everybody, but those final two games were pretty good," Laine said. "Our line was playing pretty well and I'm satisfied, even though I didn't score or help get the result for my team."
Video: CAMP | Patrik Laine
Laine scored once in pre-tournament competition, but was held pointless in the main. He finished with 10 shots on goal (3.33 per game), a team high.
"The result wasn't so good, but you have to see the bigger picture and for me, I was just kind of learning how to play and how to be here in the big world. It was an awesome experience."
Laine didn't just belong on that stage - he was often a force, continually showing why he'll soon be a star in the National Hockey League. It was more of the same today, with those marvellous hands ordering a play or powering that world-class one-timer, all at a pace fit for the bigs.
And who better to show him the way than the man himself, the captain, Blake Wheeler? Whether it was offering instruction, explaining a drill or sharing a few laughs, it was clear early on that there was a mentor-protégé relationship developing between the two.
"He's an awesome guy," Laine said of his linemate. "He knows how to play this game and he has been here for a long time. I'm going to get a lot out of him, a lot of tips and some good information about the pro game. It's great."
Mark Scheifele shared the ice with Laine today, and stayed out well after the conclusion of practice to work together on their game.
"It's better being on the same side of him so we're not chirping back and forth with each other (laughs)," Scheifele said. "He's obviously a very good player, very skilled, and it's definitely a huge improvement for our team."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com