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Laine hopeful season can continue after pause

"I took some big steps this year, especially in my all-around game." -Laine

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

Patrik Laine just wants to play hockey, even if he knows there will be a bit of an adjustment whenever that day comes.

"My game is probably going to look terrible because I haven't skated in two months," said Laine from his home in Tampere, Finland, where he's been since the NHL season went on pause on March 12.

"It's always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven't skated. If there is a training camp, or something like that, it will be a good playoff run because everybody is rested and hopefully healthy."

The 22-year-old Laine has always been his own harshest critic. In the first three seasons of his career - using his trademark self-deprecating sense of humour - he'd call himself out if he felt he wasn't playing to his standard.

Video: VIDEO CALL | Patrik Laine

Of course, those seasons included being named a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2016-17, and a 44-goal performance in 2017-18 (the second most in the league that season).

In 2019-20, however, Laine didn't feel his play slipped to a point where his criticism was needed.

"I've always been honest," he said. "I don't think I had many cold streaks like I've had the past couple years."

Laine's 35 assists through 68 games this season were a career-high, besting his previous mark of 28 in his rookie season. He was on pace for his fourth consecutive 30-goal campaign (he had 28 at the season pause).

"It was the first time in my career I've had more assists than goals, so hopefully that's not going to happen again," Laine said with his sarcastic tone.

"I took some big steps this year, especially in my all-around game," said Laine, who was averaging close to a point-per-game this season. "I got some more consistency out of my game. It was a good year, it's too bad we had to stop the season."

His consistency has translated to another sport during the pause - golf.

It's a sport he's played a lot with his friends back home and over the years, he's lowered his handicap to five.

However, not everyone is convinced. 

His fellow countryman, Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes, even put Laine on the spot. Aho submitted a question for Laine to answer during his Zoom video call, asking how many short putts Laine picks up as 'gimmes' to help keep his score that low.

"Zero," said Laine confidently. "I'm just pretty good with those short putts. I don't need any gimmes."

Outside of golf, Laine has been spending time with his family and doing his best to stay in shape. The time zone differences from Finland compared to North America make it a little bit difficult to arrange too many conversations with teammates, but there is an ongoing conversation between Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.

They are just two of the young players that have played big roles on the Jets roster this season.

"All the young guys, they were given more ice time and a bigger role this year. Everybody handled it really well," said Laine. "That's what we need to do, and keep doing. For me as well as a young guy, I have to try and step up my game and earn more responsibilities, play better and that's how we as a team are going to get success."

He's hopeful that the next time he can do that is this summer, should the NHL return to finish the season.

He's heard about the potential of hub cities and 24-team playoff formats. He doesn't care what it all looks like, he just wants to play if it's safe to do so.

"I don't mind the format, it's not an issue for me," he said, adding he'll have to pack something very important if the league keeps players in hub cities for an extended period of time.

"I have to bring my computer so I can play some video games," he said. "But if that's what it requires to play hockey still this summer, that's fine with me. I don't mind."

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