In the short history of these Winnipeg Jets 2.0, jumping from 6th to 2nd on the 2016 draft board may be a top-three moment for the organization. The chance to add a franchise-altering player to an already well-regarded prospect pool likely wasn't the end folks had in mind for 2015-16, but it makes for rather welcome solace. Given the players available, far from being a consolation prize, selecting No. 2 almost feels like winning all the same.
On that note, with the 2nd pick in SB Nation's 2016 NHL Mock Draft, Arctic Ice Hockey selects Patrik Laine.
Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Tappara (Liiga)
2015-16 Regular Season: 46 GP, 17 G, 16 A, 253 SOG, 6.7 Sh%, 17:16 ATOI
2015-16 Playoffs: 18 GP, 10 G, 5 A, 112 SOG, 8.9 Sh%, 18:32 ATOI
By now, some will know Laine's scouting report better than their list of "need-to-remember" birthdays and anniversaries. Coming in at 6'4" and 207 lbs, the Finnish winger doesn't leave one wanting for size and strength. More importantly however, he has the on-ice demeanour to utilize that size effectively. Even in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference, there aren't many players who will outmuscle Laine for the puck on a regular basis. Power forward isn't a label I'm overly fond of, but it most certainly applies in this case.
Thankfully, Laine is far more than just size and determination. The Tampere native may have the best shot among this year's draft-eligible players. Creative, aware and an underrated playmaker to boot, there are some who would make the case that Laine, not Auston Matthews, is the top prospect of this draft class.
When recently meeting with the media, Matthew Tkachuk quite rightly said that "People want winners". Luckily for the Winnipeg Jets, Patrik Laine is a winner on both an individual and team level. Far from being a passenger on Tappara's ride to the Liiga Championship, Laine was named Playoff MVP (as well as the league's Rookie of the Year). He won gold at the U20 World Junior Championship, tying Auston Matthews for most goals with seven. And while Finland was vanquished by Canada in the gold medal game of the Men's World Championship, Laine was crowned tournament MVP.
This winning pedigree plays into a certain narrative which has come about. Laine has swagger, no doubt about that, and it seems to have left some worried over his perhaps being a little too confident. But Laine knows he can be part of a winning team, and play an integral role at that. While some might read "I think I have the ability to someday become the best player in the NHL" as overconfidence, an alternative (and my preferred) interpretation is someone who knows not only how he's in possession of a talented skill set, but that he can be better still. I want the player who is aware of what they bring to the table and strives to be among the best.
How and where exactly Laine fits into the lineup remains to be seen. Heading into 2016-17, Winnipeg's forward corps is set to be as flush with young, exciting talent as it's ever been. But when a potential superstar falls into your lap, you thank the hockey gods and sprint to the podium. And besides, if Mark Scheifele is thrilled at the prospect of bringing him aboard, that's good enough for me.
It would make me nervous to not take Laine 1st overall at this point. The kid is intent on backing up his claims. https://t.co/ci7fKIIBnC— Sean C. Reynolds (@snseanreynolds) June 4, 2016
What's your reaction to our selection of Patrik Laine? Might the organization be warded away by his swagger, instead leaning towards a Puljujärvi or even Tkachuk? Would they be right to do so? And how surprised are you that I didn't pull rank and select Clayton Keller?
Share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!