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World Cup

Patrik Laine healthy, ready to represent Finland

Jets coach Paul Maurice says rookie forward has legitimate shot at NHL roster after World Cup

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Winnipeg Jets forward prospect Patrik Laine, selected No. 2 in the 2016 NHL Draft, has been training daily in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, according to Jets coach Paul Maurice.

Laine, who will play for Team Finland at the tournament, had knee surgery following the NHL Scouting Combine in June. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract on July 3. 

"He was held out of (Jets) development camp for precautionary reasons, but he's back to full training and has been for quite some time," Maurice told NHL.com. "There will be zero repercussions moving forward."

Maurice said he expects Laine, a right wing, to challenge for a spot on the Jets roster in training camp following his participation in the eight-team tournament, which will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

"He's certainly going to be given the opportunity to excel right out of the gate," Maurice said. "I had another No. 2 overall pick when I was coach in Carolina in Eric Staal. In training camp and over the first half of the year, you could see the things Eric wanted to do, and you knew, because of who he was, that he would be able to do it. It was just a matter of time."

Staal, the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Hurricanes, had 11 goals and 31 points in 81 games as a rookie in 2003-04. Laine had 33 points (17 goals, 16 assists) in 46 games for Tappara in Liiga, Finland's top league, last season.

"Patrik is going to be able to do all those things he's always been able to do," Maurice said. "How long it takes him to do it, I don't know, but he's going to get a chance to play. He fits in to what we're trying to do as a hockey team, so you'll live with some mistakes that are youth-generated, but he's a very special talent and I would not be surprised if he comes in and is able to finish and put up numbers.

"Of all the positions to join the NHL in, the wing is the most forgiving."

Laine had seven goals and 12 points at the 2016 IIHF World Championship and was named tournament MVP for Finland, which won the silver medal. He was named MVP of the playoffs after helping Tappara win the championship. Laine also won a gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He could play against Jets teammate Blake Wheeler, who is a forward for Team USA.

"We can all see his ability and the things he brings to the table," Wheeler told the Winnipeg Sun on Tuesday. "It creates a ton of excitement for us and obviously for the city. At the same time he's 18 years old and hasn't played a game in the NHL. You don't want to put too much on him too early, and have these high expectations that nobody can live up to. ... When he becomes the player he's going to be, he's going to be a huge piece for our organization."

Maurice said the first piece of advice he'll give Laine when he arrives at training camp will be to get to know his teammates.

"The hockey is going to come, the hockey is there, but all of these other things are also important," Maurice said. "I've coached a lot of good young players, I've coached a player who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year (Jeff Skinner, Carolina, 2010-11) and I've seen the ups and downs of those seasons they've had. If he has a great two weeks, I'm not going to get too excited about it; if he doesn't look right in the first two weeks, I'm not going to worry about it a bit.

"This year for him is all about learning the League and becoming an NHL player and making lifelong friends. For him, there's a bunch of other guys on this team not far from his age and what we want to have happen is to have Patrik, Mark [Scheifele], Blake [Wheeler], Dustin Byfuglien and those young guys to start forming the bonds of a championship team.

"Just the idea that you get to play here and play with them your whole career so get to know them, enjoy it, go out to lunch and enjoy being with each other."

Laine is in Helsinki, Finland, preparing with Team Finland for the World Cup. Team Finland will remain in Helsinki from Sept. 5-9 before heading to Gothenburg, Sweden, for a pretournament game against Sweden on Sept. 10.

Team Finland, Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Europe, Team North America, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team USA will compete in the two-week tournament. Team Finland plays its first game on Sept. 18 against Team North America (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2).

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