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Ahead by a century

Jets' gifted sniper crossed the 100-goal Laine Thursday; the Free Press has gathered some of what he and others have had to say since goal No. 1 in 2016

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2018 (667 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Paul Maurice has seen a lot of things in his 21-year NHL coaching career. But ask him to describe what he has in Patrik Laine, and the normally eloquent communicator struggles to find the words.

"I've never seen a guy shoot a puck like that. Just on the release on the pucks that are going into the net," Maurice said Thursday night at Bell MTS Place, not long after watching the 20-year-old Finnish sniper become the fourth-youngest player in NHL history to score 100 goals.

Plenty of ink has been spilled about Laine, especially over the past month as he's been on one of the best heaters in hockey history. His 18 goals in November were just two short of the all-time record for any month by any player, and Laine is the first skater since 1994 to put up that many.

Winnipeg Jets fans are truly witnessing something special in Laine, the second-overall pick in the 2016 draft who stepped right into the league and began lighting the lamp — 36 in his rookie year, 44 in his sophomore campaign. And who knows how many this year, with 13 alone in his past six games to put him on top of the NHL scoring race, with 21 in 24 games. For those of you keeping track at home, that's a 72-goal pace over an 82-game season.

"I’m starting to believe in myself again. I don’t think I’ve changed much. I’m just trying to believe and trying to work hard. I think success will come," Laine said Thursday.

All signs point to the trip home to Helsinki for the two-game Global Series at the beginning of November as a significant turning point. Laine had scored just three times in his first dozen games and was being shuffled throughout the lineup in an attempt to find some chemistry to get him going.

"The weight came off (after Helsinki)... when we get down to the bus he stops and signs all the autographs. He's really sensitive to the people around him, to the fans. A personality like that also feels the weight, pressure and responsibility of going home to play in front of his home country," Maurice said.

"I was surprised. I was surprised when we got there how big a deal he was. It's rock-star status over there.

Laine's pressure-packed performance in Finland — four goals, including a Game 1 hat trick — offered some relief for the coach, too.

"There's a weight that comes with that... yeah, maybe it's a spark," Maurice said. "But also that's the deep breath, then, for me that got him going."

And the scary thing for NHL goalies, according to both Laine and Maurice, is there's still plenty of room for growth and improvement.

"Patty's got lots of room to be a great player, but the shot doesn't have to get better. He's going to get more shots, different looks as he evolves as a player, as his winger and centre do, as well," the coach said.

"But that shot was there at 18. It's been elite. I'm not sure if it can get better. Maybe he'll tell you he can. We just need to get him the puck as much as he can in different areas and he's going to score."

With Laine having surpassed the century mark, we take a look back today at his impressive career so far and how he got here so quickly.


"It was unbelievable. You score the first goal just once, it was just special."

— Laine, Oct. 13, 2016, after a power play tally in his NHL regular-season debut that helped spark the Jets to a 5-4 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.


Paul Maurice

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Paul Maurice

"I've never seen anybody score goals like Patrik Laine does in practice. Ever, in 20 years. There are guys that are good shooters in practice and they can't seem to find a way to translate that into a game. But he has a gift, there's no question about it."

— Maurice, Oct. 19, 2016, after Laine records his first career hat trick in a head-to-head showdown with Toronto's Auston Matthews, which included notching the overtime winner.


"We're all excited about how (Laine) plays, and for me it's so special because I went through all the great moments here and now he's starting his own journey.... When Winnipeg drafted him, I was so pumped and I knew he's gonna be happy here.... He's only 18 years old, so he's gonna get even better. So watch out. It's gonna be fun for him and the city."

— Teemu Selanne, Oct. 21, 2016, while receiving a key to the city from Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.


"You can feel it in the crowd when he gets the puck from anywhere. You can feel the anticipation of the shot and everybody on our bench has that exact same anticipation."

— Maurice, Nov. 8, 2016, after Laine lights up the Dallas Stars for three goals and takes over the NHL goal-scoring lead.


"It's frustrating because the team's not winning and I can't help my team to win with my abilities."

— Laine, Nov. 24, 2016, during the first drought of his young career, in which he scored just once in 10 games.


Ken Hitchcock

LM OTERO / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Ken Hitchcock

"I see a bigger version of Jari Kurri. I see a guy who puts his body in a position to shoot the puck. He's always in position to create his own individual space on the ice, where you think you've got tight coverage and he can just get loose and then he lets it rip. I see a lot of that hockey sense that's almost impossible to teach, because you have to be thinking two steps ahead, not one step ahead. Pretty damn impressive, to be honest with you."

— Then-St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Dec. 3, 2016.


"It's a hard hit and when you get a collision like that, there aren't the markers of a dirty hit. The elbows aren't up, they're not up off their feet. They collided and both heads hit and we had a bad result."

— Maurice, Jan. 8, 2017, after Laine suffers a concussion following a big bodycheck from Buffalo's Jake McCabe. Laine would miss eight games.


"The pace is just so much higher and, of course, we're playing almost every second day. So it's tough and all the travelling and switching time zones, that's something (I wasn't) used to. Right now, I'm pretty tired."

— Laine, April 7, 2017, before the final game of his first season, which ends with 36 goals. That's the seventh-most by an 18-year-old in NHL history.


"It feels like hockey is really hard right now."

- Laine, Nov. 2, 2017, after a sluggish start — at least by his standards — of just four goals in his first 11 games.


"I think he had that whole thing, I'm not saying scripted, but he puts pressure on himself because I think he enjoys it in some ways. He's hard on himself. Kind of filleting himself in front of the world there, the hockey world, somehow gets him going, somehow drives him more. So when he's not playing well, he's angry and grumpy. It's not all roses yet. But he can score every night if he'd like. We're good with it."

— Maurice, Nov. 14, 2017, after Laine scores in his fifth-straight games.


Nikolaj Ehlers

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Nikolaj Ehlers

"I don't even know how many goals (Laine) has right now, but he definitely knows."

— Nikolaj Ehlers, Jan. 10, 2018, taking a not-so-subtle shot at his best buddy, Laine. At the time, they were tied for the team goal-scoring lead with 19.


"I think he's got a pretty good shot. Obviously. Especially on the power play. Everybody knows he's a good player, a good talent. He has that skill, he can use his shot, he's (a) big, strong guy; obviously when you're big and strong and you have skill, it's pretty cool."

— Alex Ovechkin, Feb. 13, 2018, on what he sees in Laine, who grew up idolizing him.


"I was pretty mad at myself. I should have scored from those chances. And I thought they're not going to pass to me anymore if I can't bury it from those chances, but thank God they did."

— Laine, March 4, 2018, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, after hitting two posts and missing an open net early in a game in Carolina in which he went on to score twice.


"Just pure luck, I guess. I don't know, man. That's a good question. It's kind of a secret, so I don't want everybody to know that."

— Laine, March 6, 2018, responding to a question about how he's able to beat the best goaltenders in the world, after a hat trick in the Big Apple against the New York Rangers gave him 13 goals in his past nine games and 38 on the season.


Laine  scores a goal on New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider during a March 28, 2017 game.

JULIO CORTEZ / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Laine scores a goal on New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider during a March 28, 2017 game.

"Probably one of the best releases in the league. You've got to be aware of where he is at all times. Not cheat on him at all, make sure if he's got the puck on his stick you have to play the shot. You know, even then, he still might beat you."

— New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, March 8, 2018.


"Yeah, it's probably not a race anymore. But it's still fun. It's been fun competing with him, just kind of chasing him the whole season."

— Laine, April 3, 2018, after scoring his 44th goal of the season (80th of his career) to ultimately finish second in the NHL scoring race behind Alex Ovechkin.


"I'm happy with my numbers as a teenager. Now I'm disappointed that it's over, but I'm happy (with) what I was able to do before my 20th birthday. It's nice to be here."

— Laine, April 19, 2018, on turning 20 as the third highest-scoring teenager in NHL history.


"My company. It's pretty priceless."

— Ehlers, April 19, 2018, on his birthday gift for Laine.


"I didn't eat any s--t food. Not a lot of candy, not a lot of sugars."

— Laine, Sept. 6, 2018, on how he shed 14 pounds (along with his scraggly playoff beard) over the summer.


"Skating's not ready. Hands are definitely not ready. Shot is not ready. And my head is not there. But there's still two weeks.... It is pretty typical. Last year it took me almost to January to get me going. Hopefully I can get myself going earlier."

— Laine, Sept. 21, 2018, on the state of his game during the pre-season.


"Like I said before, I'm not a pre-season guy. When the season starts I'll start scoring."

— Laine, Oct. 4, 2018, on scoring his team's first goal of the regular season in a 5-1 win over St. Louis.


"I've been waiting for this since I heard we were coming to play here last year. It's been the games that I've been waiting for since the season started. So, it's awesome to finally be here and be able to be back home."

— Laine, Oct. 28, 2018, on being home in Helsinki for a pair of NHL Global Series games.


"I don't think you guys can even imagine how good that feels."

— Laine, Nov. 1, 2018, after scoring three goals in a victory against Florida before a raucous Finnish crowd.


"His game wasn't where we thought it would be prior to it, and he would admit to that. So the obvious (question) is, 'What's unusual? What's different about your situation?' Well, you're heading to a pretty intense, pretty emotional time for a young man. He handled it, clearly, exceptionally well."

— Maurice, Nov. 7, 2018, after the trip home, on Laine breaking out of a slow start to his season.


"Well, not gonna say it out loud, but obviously it’s bothering me because you’re not producing five-on-five. But when you stay patient and work hard you’re going to get rewarded like I got rewarded tonight."

— Laine, Nov. 19, 2018, on a hat trick against Vancouver that included his first five-on-five goals of the season.


"I felt like every time I touched the puck it kind of went in, somehow. I guess it was just one of those nights."

— Laine, Nov. 24, 2018, on scoring five goals on five shots in St. Louis, giving him 11 on a four-game road trip, 16 in November, 19 on the season and 99 for his career.


"To be honest with you, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner. I said that once and figured I would keep it to myself. On the nights he's scored his three, he's had his chances to get so much more. But boy, those guys were so good and some of those goals, you've just got to sit back and smile — if you're standing on the right bench."

— Maurice, Nov. 24, 2018, on Laine's franchise record-setting night.


Kyle Connor

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Kyle Connor

"Just get the puck to Patty, right? He was feeling it. I think it's pretty special, with that shot he has. It's fun to watch out there."

— Kyle Connor, Nov. 24, 2018, on setting up four of Laine's five goals.


"Just try to score, try not to (celebrate) so hard."

— Laine, Nov. 24, 2018, on what was going through his mind as he was making Jets history.


"I knew it was going to come eventually. When you work hard you’re going to get it at some point. Good to get it out of the way and try to chase 200 now."

Laine, Nov. 29, 2018, on scoring career goal No. 100 (and, later, 101), against Chicago.

 

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

Read full biography

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