It’s no secret that the Calder race is closer than ever. Who will it be? Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine? Maybe, Mitch Marner, Zach Werenski or Matt Murray will come through and sweep the rug out from underneath the top two. This year’s rookie class is full of high-end talent that are already making an impact in the NHL. Especially, 18-year-old Patrik Laine.
Laine is second in the league in goal scoring, behind only Sidney Crosby. He is on pace for over 40 goals this season. The last rookie to accomplish that feat was Alex Ovechkin back in 2005-06. Pretty impressive right?
The Importance of Patrik Laine
There are a lot of comparisons between Laine and Ovechkin. Both have a shot that is unmatched by many. The fact that Laine has that type of a shot at just 18 is wild. There is still a very real chance that Laine could win the Rocket Richard trophy as an 18-year-old rookie.
Historically, there have only been three players that scored at least 30 goals and averaged at least a point per game as an 18-year old. Dale Hawerchuk (1981-82), Steve Yzerman (1983-84), and Sidney Crosby (2005-06).
Laine is on track to join some elite company. He has 59 points in 59 games so far this season.
What might be even more impressive is that he is doing it in an era where scoring is nowhere near what it was when Hawerchuk and Yzerman played.
Laine’s coach Jussi Tapola from Liiga in Finland told reporters, “What surprises me is how he’s scored points consistently, he’s adapted to the NHL level so fast.”
Laine’s Importance to the Jets
When Laine scores, the Jets have a record of 17-3-3. Coincidence? Jets defenceman Paul Postma doesn’t think so, “When you’ve got a guy like that putting the puck in the net, it gives everyone else confidence as well. When he’s scoring, we know we can win games.”
Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine
Laine doesn’t generate the volume of shots that Matthews does, and he isn’t as dominant of a possession player. But, that doesn’t mean that Laine won’t be that type of player somewhere down the road. Those are things that can and will be improved upon in the future.
The two have different roles to play on their respective teams. Matthews is being bred to be a number one centre in the NHL. Laine is being bred to be a top 5 winger. So obviously, their roles are going to be different.
Out of curiosity, for my followers, which rookie would you pick now for the Calder?
Matthews is a centre, Laine does not need to do what a centre does. That’s what Mark Scheifele is for. Similar to how Alex Ovechkin has Nicklas Backstrom for the same reason. Both are incredibly important to their teams, but for different reasons.
The argument is similar to the never ending debate of ‘Who’s better, Crosby or Ovechkin?’ Both are the best at their position. Both are immensely important to their team. The outlook appears to be the same for ‘the next generation’ in Laine and Matthews.
Whoever leaves the NHL Awards with the Calder trophy deserves to do so.
Laine is important not only to his team but the league itself. A fresh face with that kind of shot doesn’t come around often. Heck, the last time one came around was The Great 8. Look how he turned out.
Laine is good, really good, and he’s only going to get better.
October 19, 2016: Jets Patrik Laine (29) skates with the puck during the Winnipeg Jets vs Toronto Maple Leafs game at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg MB. (Photo by Terry Lee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)