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Similarities between snipers Laine, Ovechkin striking

<p>Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine, left, and Washington Captials' Alexander Ovechkin.</p>

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Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine, left, and Washington Captials' Alexander Ovechkin.

WASHINGTON — Mathieu Perreault has seen this play out before. A struggling team, looking to reverse their fortunes, hits pay dirt at the draft by selecting a franchise-changing forward.

It happened when the Washington Capitals nabbed Alexander Ovechkin with the first-overall pick in 2004. He's become the face of the club, and the most feared goal scorer of his generation.

Jets froward Perreault, who spent five seasons in the Washington organization, believes that's exactly what is starting to happen with the Winnipeg Jets in the form of Patrik Laine, whom they selected with the second-overall selection in the 2016 draft.

“The organization wasn’t having a whole lot of success, and then they get Ovie as a young kid and he starts scoring goals, and all of a sudden the team starts winning. They became a very dominant team for many years," Perreault said prior to Monday's game against the Capitals. "So you kind of sense that here, where the team’s been struggling for many years, not making the playoffs. And then you get this young kid coming in and scoring goals for your team and helps your team win games. I think coming up in Winnipeg we’ll have a dominant team for many years.”

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WASHINGTON — Mathieu Perreault has seen this play out before. A struggling team, looking to reverse their fortunes, hits pay dirt at the draft by selecting a franchise-changing forward.

It happened when the Washington Capitals nabbed Alexander Ovechkin with the first-overall pick in 2004. He's become the face of the club, and the most feared goal scorer of his generation.

Jets froward Perreault, who spent five seasons in the Washington organization, believes that's exactly what is starting to happen with the Winnipeg Jets in the form of Patrik Laine, whom they selected with the second-overall selection in the 2016 draft.

"The organization wasn’t having a whole lot of success, and then they get Ovie as a young kid and he starts scoring goals, and all of a sudden the team starts winning. They became a very dominant team for many years," Perreault said prior to Monday's game against the Capitals. "So you kind of sense that here, where the team’s been struggling for many years, not making the playoffs. And then you get this young kid coming in and scoring goals for your team and helps your team win games. I think coming up in Winnipeg we’ll have a dominant team for many years."

Perreault said he still considers Ovechkin a friend and cherished the time spent playing with him in the NHL.

"I can tell my grandkids, my kids, I played with Ovechkin. He’s going to be a legend of the game. That’s something I’m happy I had the chance to be around," said Perreault, who sees plenty of similarities with his current teammate in Laine.

"Two great shooters, who you can give them one chance and they can put it in the back of the net," said Perreault. "(With Laine), you give him one opportunity and it’s in the back of the net. Right now every shot it seems goes in. It helps us win games when he scores like that. It’s been fun to see."

Laine received plenty of media attention during this East Coast road swing when the Jets hit major hockey media markets in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. The spotlight got even bigger Monday in Washington before the game featuring the two leading NHL goal scorers this season in Laine and Overchkin, each with 40.

"It’s really impressive when you factor in he’s still learning the game. His scoring has taken off of late, but so has his game, his all-around game. That was true before Paul (Stastny) got here and they clearly have a nice chemistry together," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said prior to Monday's game. "To do that at 19 is special. As much as you’re left kind of smiling when the puck goes in because it happens so often now and it’s fun to watch, there have been an awful lot of games where he could have had two or three more."

Maurice was asked what the ceiling might be for Laine, considering many players don't really come into their own until they are well into their twenties.

"He’s an impressive young man at 19. At any age, those numbers would be elite. But at 19, that’s pretty exciting because again, there’s lot of room as he physically matures, for his game to change and become a power forward and a big, strong man who can score off the rush, take pucks to the net. There are lots of places (Laine) is going to improve over the years," said Maurice, who added he's not getting caught up in goal-scoring numbers.

"The overall game (Laine) will play will become far more important than whether it’s 40, 50 or whatever that number (of goals) ends up being. With Mark (Scheifele) out of the lineup, you’re already seeing them start to draw the shutdown pair of D and their A line. So that’s a bit of an adjustment he’ll have to deal with," said Maurice. "Then at some point, (Laine) is going to play 20 minutes a night. Maybe not at 19, but when that happens, he’ll be playing against the A group. It’s not as easy to keep scoring like Ovechkin has when you move up the lineup and you play more minutes and you play against the other team's best. It doesn’t take much for either one of those guys (Laine or Ovechkin) to get it off their stick, that’s for sure."

Laine, named the NHL's first star of the week Monday after scoring five times in three games, had another huge media scrum following Monday's skate. He answered every question with his usual honesty and candour. He said competing for the Rocket Richard Trophy against Ovechkin, his boyhood idol, was hard to believe.

"Washington, they've always been my favourite team when I was growing up. It's always been my dream to play against them and just overall to be here at the rink and now we're playing here. It's pretty cool," said Laine, who added there was no extra pressure for this particular showdown.

"We just feel pressure about our team stuff. That's the only thing we're worried about. We've got to get the two points, and that's the only thing we care about," he said. "It's pretty awesome just to be in this position to race for the goal-scoring title as a 19-year-old. It's pretty unreal. But the work is not done yet. There's still a lot of games to go and hopefully we can play good hockey, including myself."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Read more by Mike McIntyre.

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History

Updated on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 8:45 PM CDT: fixes typo in headline

March 13, 2018 at 5:48 PM: fixes formatting in box

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