BUFFALO, New York - Patrik Laine - the newest member of the Winnipeg Jets and one of the most naturally gifted marksmen in the 2016 draft class - is the ultimate straight shooter:
- He is inspired by "pretty goals."
- He is afraid of "nothing."
- He dreams of "being the world's best hockey player."
There, the final three lines of his pre-draft Q&A with NHL.com revealed what many of us already knew.
The kid's gonna special.
Laine, chosen with the second pick in Friday's opening round of the NHL Draft, could hardly stop smiling. It was then, about 25 minutes later in the depths of the rink when he looked down,
pausing briefly as he caught a glimpse of the F18. And so he continued:
"It was quite special to hear my name selected at second overall," Laine said. "It was the best day and best moment of my life so far. … I've been waiting for this moment now for 18 years. I'm just really happy and very proud of myself and just honoured to be here."
Laine, who grew up idolizing fellow Finn and former Jet Teemu Selanne, is excited to be going to a city with such rich hockey history.
He, too, wants to make an impression. Leave a mark.
Become that someone whose name is synonymous with greatness.
"Teemu scored a couple of [nice] goals in his rookie season, and I think the city kind of exploded from those moments. I think he's a huge person in Winnipeg, and I hope I can be that kind of
person some day, too."
A lofty goal, to be sure, but the confidence doesn't derive without cause. It's the result of an all-world skill-set amplified by a burning desire to be great. A little personality never hurts, either.
Just look at the resume:
Laine, who had 15 friends and family members on hand at Buffalo's First Niagara Center, helped the Finns win silver at the men's world championship back in May, recording seven goals, 12 points and winning the tournament's most valuable player award. That, just weeks after helping his club team - Tappara Tampere of the Finnish Elite League - win the national title for the first time in 13 years. Putting up 10 goals and 15 points in 18 playoff games, Laine won the Jari Kurri Trophy as
"It's going to be a really great fit for the city of Winnipeg and certainly for our franchise," General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "You watch him play and he does some very special things. He understands the game very, very well. He's not just a goal scorer and he's not just a shooter.
"The bigger the stage, the better he played. He knows who he is and what he is. He's comfortable in his own skin and he knows that he's earned the opportunity to be a high pick. It's a very special moment for us."
Head Coach Paul Maurice, who was the first to greet him on stage, says Laine will get every opporunity next season.
"We're going to put him on the ice, we're going to put him with good players and we're going to give him an opportunity. And then he's going to grow and we're going to enjoy watching him. ... This is a special player. Winnipeg should be excited."
Laine will don the Finnish colours once again later this fall for the World Cup of Hockey, where, at just 18, he will be the youngest player to participate.
"It's a huge thing to be selected to the World Cup team with the best players in Finland and all around the world," Laine said. "It's an honour to be part of that team and part of that tournament, and I just want to show everybody that I'm a good player and I can play there."
Laine doesn't have any expectations for next season. His first in the NHL and first on the smaller North American ice surface, he plans on spending a lot of training over the summer to ensure
peak performance at the most critical time of his career.
"Explosiveness," Laine said, citing the 200x85-foot sheet awaiting him at MTS Centre as reason enough to add power to his already strapping lower body. "Everything - you have to do
everything quicker than in Finland.
"I will do everything I can to earn my spot on the roster, and I will practice hard and hope that if I get the chance, I will use it."
Welcome to Winnipeg, Patrik.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com