Patrik Laine said his game may look “terrible” when he gets back on skates, but the forward is confident he can get it together in time to lead the Winnipeg Jets on a deep run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season resumes.
“If I look at myself and think about myself, my game’s probably going to look terrible since I haven’t skated for two months and it’s always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven’t skated,” Laine said Friday. “But I think if there’s a training camp or something like that, I think it’ll be a good playoff run since everybody’s rested and hopefully healthy. I think it would be a great playoff run.”
Laine has reason for optimism if he does get back on the ice.
When the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, he had 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists) in 68 games, and the Jets (37-28-6) were the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks. They are fourth in the Central Division, two points behind the third-place Dallas Stars.
“I took some big steps this year, especially in my all-around game,” Laine said. “It was the first time in my career I had more assists than goals, so hopefully that’s not going to happen again. But yeah, the all-around game was good this year. Kind of got some more consistency out of my game. It was a good year. Too bad we had to stop the season.”
Laine’s development this season came after he had an NHL career-low 50 points (30 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games last season, then publicly asked for more responsibility in the offseason.
He signed a two-year, $13.5 million contract ($6.75 million average annual value) with the Jets on Sept. 27.
Laine said he sees his future “as a producer and hopefully a first-line player. Obviously getting more points is one, and just be even better in my all-around game, which improved a lot this year. But there’s always lots of room to improve. Maybe some (time on the penalty kill) in the future, who knows. But yeah, just more ice time, more responsibilities and just better all around.”
Laine has not yet been used in a penalty-killing role by the Jets, but his average ice time per game of 19:25 is over two minutes more than the 17:14 he averaged last season.
In four NHL seasons since being selected by the Jets No. 2 in the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine has 247 points (138 goals, 109 assists) in 305 games.
During Laine’s time in the League, he has criticized his play on several occasions, but that hasn’t happened much this season.
“I’ve always been honest,” Laine said. “But I don’t think I was struggling that bad this year. I don’t think so. I don’t think I had that many cold streaks like I’ve had the past couple years, so I think that’s just the reason.”
Laine has been home in Tampere, Finland, during the pause. Television, movies, golf, board games and working out have taken up most of his time, and he said he’s hoping to hear some good news soon about the season. There is no timetable for when it might resume.
“I just miss playing hockey,” he said.