With Auston Matthews off the board as expected, the Winnipeg Jets used the second pick overall in the 2016 NHL Draft to add some offensive punch to their already solid prospect pool with the selection of winger Patrik Laine of Tappara Tampere.
The big forward was the first of three Finland natives to be chosen in the top 5 of this draft, as he joined winger Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM) and defenseman Olli Juolevi (VAN) up on stage in the early portion of the draft. This is the first time that three Finns have been chosen among the top 5 picks, a fact not lost on Laine.
“I think that’s quite awesome,” said Laine. “We’ve never done that before, so it’ll be a huge thing for our country and ourselves as players and as persons. It’s kind of quite huge.”
The Jets are hoping that Laine becomes a latter day version of another Finnish player that featured prominently for that club in the 90’s, Teemu Selanne. Laine is well aware of the shadow that Selanne casts, but doesn’t appear to be daunted at the idea of being the heir apparent.
“Yeah, I’ve heard about that, and I think it’s easier to go there if the city and the organization know something about the Finnish people and Finnish players,” stated Laine. “I hope that I can maybe do the same some day.”
Before Laine takes part in his first NHL training camp, he will be competing for Finland at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey that will take place in the Fall. Strong performances on the international stage at both the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and 2016 IIHF World Championship virtually ensured his selection to that country’s roster, an opportunity that Laine obviously takes seriously.
“That was a huge thing to be selected to the World Cup team with the best players in Finland and all around the world,” said Laine, who turned 18 back in April. “It’s an honor to be part of that team and part of that tournament, and I just want to show everybody that I’m a good player and I can play there.”
Some of Laine’s comments to the media following his selection by Winnipeg can be viewed in the Hockey’s Future video posted below.