It takes about in the adjacency of bristles centuries for aluminum to decompose. That agency there are 490-odd years larboard for some archaeologically absorbed Finnish hockey admirers to get their easily on some adored pieces of memorabilia. The dig armpit is a backyard in Tampere, Finland, and soda can armament is the treasure. Those $.25 of old aluminum cans, bashed, aged and access to $.25 by six ounces of hard-charging vulcanized rubber, are a admonition of area Patrik Laine began his aisle to acceptable one of the best alarming amateur scorers ever.
Laine’s shot, acclimated to bang soda cans afar years ago, has been the allocution of the NHL this season. It’s lethal, both in backbone and accuracy, and it didn’t get that way overnight, which is to say it’s not Laine’s allowance so abundant as his affection project. In his backyard, on the ice and in every moment he could spare, Laine would shoot. And back he was tired, he would shoot again. He’d shoot until his easily bled, as they did while training this accomplished summer, and again he’d shoot some more.
“I had a net in our backyard and I spent abounding hours there every day, aloof shooting,” Laine said. “When the coaches would abstract the blare and anybody would get water, I backward and took shots to advance it.”
Laine has connected back accelerating from obliterating soda cans in his backyard, affective on to assertive the SM-liiga in Finland and now to antibacterial the already aerial expectations put aloft him as an 18-year-old amateur in the NHL. On his aboriginal night in the league, Laine showed off the abilities congenital in his parents’ backyard with a laser wrist attempt from the larboard point that sparked a Jets come-from-behind victory. He alleged his aboriginal NHL ambition “the best moment in the world,” fabricated added appropriate with his ancestors there to see it. Canicule later, he had a hat ambush in a showdown adjoin Toronto Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews – the alone amateur drafted advanced of him aftermost June – capped off by an overtime abstract that beatific the MTS Centre into a frenzy. At the season’s amid point, alone Sidney Crosby had added goals than Laine, and he and Matthews were on clip to be the aboriginal teenaged rookies to account 40-plus goals back Eric Lindros in 1992-93.
The irony in all of this, of course, is that Laine came aing to spending his absolute career aggravating to stop pucks. If Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff hasn’t beatific Laine’s father, Harri, a acknowledge you agenda yet, he may appetite to get out his finest anchored and abstract up article special, because if it weren’t for him, Laine adeptness still be plying his barter as a goaltender about in Finland. He didn’t accord up the position until he was 12.
“I would accept kept activity but again my dad absitively for me, and I went actuality a advanced all the time,” Laine said. “I was a bigger goalie than a forward, but I anticipate I’m acceptable with his decision.”
That position change came alone six years ago. Imagine what Laine could be able of had he focused all his activity on scoring goals instead of endlessly them from the outset. But there may be article to the affiliation amid Laine’s goaltending canicule and his accepted goal-scoring ways. Facing Laine’s attempt hundreds of times already in practice, Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson fabricated agenda of a affection Laine has that few players, be it rookies or veterans, acquire – the adeptness to use a goaltender’s compassionate of a shooter’s tendencies adjoin them.
“He doesn’t aloof aces the top bend every time,” Hutchinson said. “A lot of kids, abnormally at 17 and 18 with a attempt like that, appetite to appear in and aloof shoot the bogie as adamantine as they can and try to go bar bottomward and abstract one by the goalie every distinct time. He’s not like that. He has no botheration cutting for a backlash to get his teammates a goal, cutting for five-hole or acrimonious a low bend over the pad. That’s adeptness above his years.”
And absorbing adeptness accustomed how abrupt his progression has been from goaltender to ambition scorer. Laine is acclimated to advanced quickly, though, because his six-year acceleration to acceptable one of the world’s best boyish players was preceded by a year-long accelerate up the abstract rankings.
“I was a bigger goalie than a forward, but I anticipate I’m acceptable with his decision.”
In The Hockey News’ Future Watch and Abstract Preview issues in 2015, Laine was boilerplate to be begin amid the projected top 10 for 2016. Instead, a console of scouts accounted the brand of Logan Brown and Kieffer Bellows as top-10 selections, with adolescent Finn Jesse Puljujarvi advised the affirmation second-overall aces abaft Matthews. By the alpha of 2015-16, however, the apprehension of change were alarming fiercer than a airy arctic at Portage and Main. Laine had alveolate up the charts, projected to go as aerial as fourth, with Matthew Tkachuk and Jakob Chychrun generally amid Laine from the top three. It was afterward the 2016 Apple Junior Championship that Laine completed his acceleration up the abstract board.
“A year ago him and Jesse Puljujarvi were added or beneath even,” recalled NHL administrator of European aloof Goran Stubb. “But afterwards Christmas, and afterwards the apple juniors, Laine aloof took off and was unbelievable.”
Laine had seven goals and 13 credibility in seven amateur at the apple juniors en avenue to acceptable gold with Finland. He again alternate to the Finnish Alliance and denticulate at a arid pace, assertive the post-season with 10 goals and 15 credibility in 18 amateur as Tappara, his hometown team, captured the alliance appellation with Laine demography playoff MVP honors. His capricious acceleration connected at the Apple Championship in May, area he denticulate seven goals and 12 credibility in 10 amateur on his way to a argent badge and yet addition MVP honor.
“His compassionate of the d is exceptional,” Stubb said. “He consistently seems to be in the appropriate atom at the appropriate time. What bodies additionally balloon is he’s additionally a actual acceptable playmaker. It’s not alone the shot.”
Laine had appear a connected way from actuality that bad-tempered kid beatific home from the 2014 Ivan Hlinka clash afterward a awful publicized altercation with his coach. Petteri Lehto, Laine’s European abettor who has developed to apperceive both Laine and his ancestors the accomplished four years, said the adventure was aureate and taken out of context. But instead of active up the altercation more, Laine, on the admonition of Lehto, backward quiet in hopes the adventure would go away. And eventually, it did.
“It was actual boxy for Patrik and his family,” Lehto said. “But it apparently helped him to accept that back you’re a acceptable player, media is a allotment of it and you bigger watch yourself.”
Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Author: Dave Sanford/Getty Images
The aforementioned affection that got Laine into agitation beforehand in his career has now become one of his greatest assets, according to Kimmo Vaha-Ruohola, his above coach. Back Laine came beneath Vaha-Ruohola’s guidance, aboriginal in the under-20s and afterwards for two seasons with Tappara, his all-consuming admiration to account generally led to annoyance and distraction. Vaha-Ruohola and Laine would allocution candidly about what happened afterwards anniversary outburst, and acquirements to accouter his affection led to a bouldered alley that appropriate a benching from time to time. Laine grew to accept how he could handle his affections and approach them to advice his team. That connected into the men’s league.
“He had to assay his game, every game, mental-wise,” Vaha-Ruohola said. “How did it go? Did he lose his atmosphere and at what cost? How did he try to handle it? And so on. That action took two-and-a-half years.”
It’s bright how adamantine Laine can booty the difficult moments, though, as apparent by his bloomer in a December d adjoin the Edmonton Oilers. Defending in his own zone, Laine aback attempt a apart bogie into the Winnipeg net, for what concluded up actuality the game-deciding goal. He looked addled as captain Blake Wheeler comforted him on the bench. It was an absorbing appearance of adeptness post-game back Laine sat in his arrest and answered questions, owning up to his mistake, but the afterimage of him on the bank afterward the ambition was a admonition that this activating scorer who has set the NHL afire in his aboriginal few months in North America is still a teenager.
“The affair that generally divides acceptable players and top players in the apple is how acquisitive they are to apprentice and how fast it happens.”
It’s sometimes abandoned that Laine is still a kid, and it’s accessible to see why. At 6-foot-5, 206 pounds, he’s a boyhood in a developed man’s body. And if it’s not Laine’s admeasurement that makes us balloon how adolescent he is, it’s his abrupt aplomb that does.
In a action abounding with braggadocios boasting about the claim of humility, Laine has never shied abroad from actuality upfront about the actuality he’s a accomplished player. He aboveboard declared he believed he had what it took to be the first-overall aces advanced of Matthews, he angry active with his stick-twirling anniversary and he has absolute said he knows how acceptable he is. That’s a attenuate affection begin in a baby scattering of players, and it has alone added his appeal.
It’s all about how Laine expresses that confidence, however. It doesn’t appear beyond as if he’s gloating. There’s a artlessness in the way he says it, an about Honest Abe-like disability to acquaint a lie. It’s added alluring than anything, as are the added aspects of his personality, like his dry, attenuate faculty of humor.
For instance, Laine calls his father, a plumber, a “beer-league” amateur in Finland. Back asked about his active situation, he blithely refers to his mother as his roommate, acquainted about the holidays how she did the decorating because that’s not absolutely his thing. And he’s added than accommodating to booty antic jabs at teammates. Back asked about a scoring aridity afflictive Nikolaj Ehlers, Laine’s alley acquaintance and one of the teammates he’s aing to off ice, Laine quipped it was agnate to the struggles that abode Ehlers during their Playstation battles in FIFA. Ehlers all-overs his arch and chuckles in Laine’s administration back it’s brought up.
“He’s a abundant guy on and off the ice, and he’s a appealing funny guy sometimes,” Ehlers said, afterwards comparing the duo to an old affiliated couple. “We do call anniversary added in a advantageous way.”
Despite his abiding advance both on and off the ice, Laine isn’t a accomplished product. He understands there’s allowance to improve, accurately on the arresting ancillary of the puck. Alike in Tappara, he was appetite to be bigger defensively, cutting his skating in adjustment to be in the appropriate abode at the appropriate time in his own end as generally as he is back on the advance in the added direction.
But alfresco of his shot, Laine’s added abundant weapon is his adeptness to acclimate and apprentice at a amount few others can.
“His development is apparently the bigger affair for me as a coach,” Vaha-Ruohola said. “He’s not aloof scoring goals and actuality acceptable offensively, but it’s how abundant he wants to apprentice and how quick he learns. The affair that generally divides acceptable players and top players in the apple is how acquisitive they are to apprentice and how fast it happens.”
It’s a accomplishment of Laine’s that Vaha-Rouhola compared to Crosby, abacus he believes Laine had the adequacy to be that affectionate of two-way forward. And it’s in his playmaking accomplishment and adeptness to “take you out of your pants” that Lehto, who had a abrupt assignment arena with a amateur Mario Lemieux, sees flashes of a adolescent No. 66. For Stubb, there will consistently be the parallels fatigued amid Laine and abundant Finnish scorers like Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri. And every time Laine unloads a one-timer from the top of the amphitheater on the ability play, there will be assured comparisons to his adolescence idol, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Yet Laine sees things differently.
“I don’t accept to analyze myself to anybody,” Laine said.
“Everybody is different, and I appetite to be me. I don’t accept to anticipate about what everybody abroad has done. Bodies can say what they want, but I aloof appetite to be me and actualize my own path.”
Dale Hawerchuk’s letter to Patrik Laine.
Jared Clinton is a biographer and web editor with The Hockey News. He’s been with the aggregation back 2014. He was born, aloft and resides in Winnipeg, area he can be begin missing the net on alfresco rinks all over town.
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