The Vancouver Canucks are preparing for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.
Unfortunately, the 2015-16 season was cut short for the Vancouver Canucks, which means we have a long offseason ahead of us. Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the time to prepare next season’s roster, and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will certainly play an important part in that process.
Vancouver started off strong in the fall of 2015 but ended the season with a thud. Thanks to their abysmal 28th rank in the league standings, the Canucks own seven picks early in each round. Benning did a great job in his first two years at the job and another successful draft could certainly help boost the rebuild.
Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming event by profiling as many draft-eligible players as we possibly can. Keep in mind that we are not saying these are players the Canucks are targeting. Instead, these are players that we think the Canucks could or should have interest in.
Now it is time to take a look at the second elite prospect from Finland, Patrik Laine.
Name: Patrik Laine
Height, weight: 6’4”, 209 lbs
Team/League: Tampereen Tappara, Liiga
Stats (from eliteprospects.com):
46 17 16 33 6 6
Risk, Reward: 1/5, 5/5
NHL-potential: Elite First-Line Winger
Draft Range: Top 3
"A natural scorer, Laine’s greatest asset is his intimidating shot. He’s not a speedy skater, but possesses power and a long stride, and protects the puck well with his large frame and longer stick. Overall, skating has been a minor issue through Laine’s development but has improved with some help from his ability to read the game. Laine has the hunger to create chances on his own from the wing and actively looks for and creates opportunities to use his shot. His elite wrist shot is notable for its quick release and his powerful one-timer from the top of the circle is a constant threat on the man-advantage. (Matias Strozyk, Elite Prospects, 2016)"
Patrik Laine is a stereotypical power forward. He combines his 6-foot-4, 209-pound frame with great puck skills and a terrific shot.
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What scouts love most about the Finn is his shot arsenal. Laine can get the puck to the net in various ways and does so whenever he can. His wrist shot, slap shot and one timer are all strong and accurate, resulting in 17 goals in 46 games this season.
In addition, Laine sees the ice very well and can play great passes to set his teammates up for high-danger scoring chances. However, he does elect to shoot whenever he gets the chance.
Laine’s puck skills have been compared to those of Mario Lemieux, especially because you rarely see a player with Laine’s and Lemieux’s frame who handles the puck like they do. It would be silly to expect Lemieux’s stats from Laine, but you get the idea.
The 17-year-old is in his second professional season in Finland and does not look out of place playing against men. He uses his frame to fight through checks, get in front of the net and win puck battles along the boards. When controlling the puck, he uses his frame and reach to protect the puck. Plus, his puck skills and dekes are absolutely amazing.
What puts Laine ahead of countryman Jesse Puljujärvi in most draft rankings aside is his offensive pedigree. Laine has the potential to be an electrifying 30 or even 40-goal scorer in the NHL — and who wouldn’t want that?
There aren’t many weaknesses in Patrik Laine’s game, but the one issue he has might be a big one: skating. Laine has a very powerful first stride but he is neither overly fast nor agile compared to his peers. However, he worked on that and other players have proven that skating issues are something that can be fixed.
New York Islanders captain John Tavares and Edmonton Oilers sophomore Leon Draisaitl were dubbed bad skaters going into their drafts. While nobody would call them outstanding today, Tavares is an elite centre and Draisaitl is on his way to become one.
Patrik Laine combines size, skill and a lethal shot to form a power forward coaches drool over. If the Canucks get the chance to pick him, they can’t possibly go wrong. Laine will become an outstanding scorer.
Just like Auston Matthews and Jesse Puljujarvi, Laine will be eligible to play in the American Hockey League. Laine might not be quite as NHL-ready as his fellow top-three prospects, but he should certainly get a few games in the NHL to start the season. Whether he starts his North American career in the AHL or as a full-time NHL player likely won’t make much of a difference in the long run.
The Vancouver Canucks could certainly need another scoring winger as soon as possible, and Laine can be that guy. Will he be that guy? We will find out on June 24.