Friday, October 9, 2015

2016 NHL Draft Preview: Patrik Laine

Welcome to the newest edition of this year's look into draft-eligible prospects. I will try to write up about as many prospects as I can before the draft next June. In giving myself plenty of time to write about prospects, it also gives a good opportunity of such rankings and initial write-ups could change, so I will add edits throughout the year if such changes are necessary to add.

Today we look at:

Patrik Laine
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 210 lbs
Position: RW
Shoots: Right
Team (League): Tappara (Liiga)
ISS rank: 6
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 15
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: (now 5)

Statline for 2015-2016 Season:  10 GP, 4G 2A 6P 0PIM, +3, 0.6 Points/Game

Laine bounced around teams last season, ultimately playing for 6 of them. This included being bounced back and forth between different leagues of the Finnish professional leagues, mainly between Liiga and Mestis. However, it certainly looks like Laine will be playing consistently for Tappara of Liiga this year. (The statline is only his current statline through the season and will change throughout the year.)

Laine was also drafted by the Sarnia Sting with the 24th selection of the 2015 CHL Import Draft. Sarnia, who had drafted Pavel Zacha the year ealier, hoped to hit another home run with an Import pick. However Laine apparently had never been notified beforehand of his drafting and elected to stay with Liiga.

So what kind of player is Laine? He's an imposing power forward with an incredible wrist shot and a good knack for creating offense. He hasn't even turned 18 yet and he's shaping up to be one of the most promising forward prospects to ever come out of Finland. There's no doubt in my mind that if Laine came over and played for Sarnia, he would have scored at least 35+ goals. Instead, he stayed in the professional league (of the highest level), which many believe to help produce more "200 ft players". It may be a cliche, but Laine has made significant improvements in all the areas he needed to work on from last season, including his two-way play. I will elaborate on such areas later on.

When discussing Laine, it is important to bring about the topic of maturity. Just over a year ago, Laine had an altercation with the Finnish head coach for the Ivan Hlinka tournament, including giving the middle finger and allegedly making threats. Thus Laine was sent home from the tournament. He was only 16 years old at the time and under immense scrutiny. This is not making an excuse for such actions as they were and still are unacceptable, however it's easy to forget how stressful of a time that is on everyone, not even taking into consideration being under immense stress representing an entire nation. Regardless, Laine has publicly stated that he sought the help of a psychologist and would usually call him or her after each game. When asked about his incident he replied with something along the lines of "I don't recognize that person anymore." Look into that all you want, but I'd be in some rough shape if I was judged simply by the things I did or said when I was 16.

Patrik Laine had to make significant improvements to his skating, and quickly, if he were to be a consistent threat at the highest level of play in Finland. This year, starting with the Champions Hockey League started (even before the Liiga season started), Laine's skating had shown incredible improvement. It still has a long ways to go, but is much better.

(Laine is wearing #29 in blue)

From this clip above, from September 15th, you can just see that his skating is much better. Also you get to see how good his hands are.

Laine's wrist shot is not the only weapon in his arsenal of offense. His playmaking skills and offensive awareness are quite remarkable. He is also able to use his large frame to help shield the puck and is also able to play physical, but doesn't over engage. In a sense his type of play reminds me a lot of a Corey Perry terms of solid two-way play, acceptable skating, not too much physical play, and fantastic offensive capabilities. Of course this is just my opinion and could be completely off, he could also be viewed as a Thomas Vanek type player as well.

All in all, I think it's fair to say that Laine's potential is a top-line Right Winger. I have him ranked 4th overall so far and it could move up or down throughout the year. In his last match for Tappara, Laine left the game after his first shift with a shoulder injury. There are some initial reports saying that it is not severe, but the full picture has not been reported yet. It could be anything from shoulder stiffness to a dislocated shoulder. Regardless it still looks like Laine will play in the next match, so it is not of much concern to me at this point.

I hope you enjoyed my write-up of Patrik Laine!
If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see my write about, please let me know!

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Thanks for reading!