The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is 38 days away and the Minnesota Wild are looking to find that next star to raise their franchise to the next level. Hockey Wilderness is counting down the days with a mock draft. We are at Pick 2 today, and the Winnipeg Jets are on the clock.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs technically won the Draft Lottery, the Winnipeg Jets were the biggest beneficiaries from the new lottery system. In previous years, only the top pick was chosen, meaning Toronto would've received the #1 pick, and everyone else would stay where they were. This season, however, the top-3 picks were up for grabs, giving teams more of a chance to move up in the draft.
For Winnipeg, this means going from pick #6 to pick #2. You can definitely get a great player at 6th overall- just ask the Anaheim Ducks, or the Arizona Coyotes, or even the Minnesota Wild. But winning the 2nd overall pick means that Winnipeg gets to select not only a higher caliber of prospect, but one that's statistically much more likely to be an impact NHL player.
And with two extremely good prospects vying to be drafted #1 overall by Toronto, Winnipeg basically got pick #1B in this draft. In this mock draft Toronto took Auston Matthews, so the Jets are going to select Patrik Laine from Tappara of Finland's Liiga.
Winnipeg's Prospect Pool
Acquiring Laine just adds to the embarrassment of riches that is the Jets' farm system. Last year's draft saw them add two centers in the first round (Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic), in addition to a third center in the second round who was a projected first-rounder all season (Jansen Harkins). But their depth doesn't end there. Brendan Lemieux proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, combining the same scoring and grit his father Claude did. Josh Morrissey is adapting to the pro game, but the offensive talent is still evident in this young blue-liner.
Winnipeg also boasts several players making the transition from prospects to pros. Nikolaj Ehlers showed off his speed and shot, scoring 38 points in his rookie season. Connor Hellebuyck filled in as an injury replacement and impressed with a .918 Sv% in 26 games. He's just 22. Joel Armia, Marko Dano, Nic Petan, and Andrew Copp also broke into the NHL lineup.
And this isn't even counting guys like Mark Scheifele or Jacob Trouba, who are both under-23 and established, good NHL regulars.
If anything, the Jets could use more impact talent on the back-end, particularly with chatter surrounding the ability of Winnipeg- which is not a cap team- to keep Trouba around long-term. But this isn't the time to get that player. The Jets have little choice but to add Laine. Fortunately, they'll be able to address that need at Pick 22, which they got from Chicago in the Andrew Ladd trade.
Has anyone ever mentioned that the Central Division is good?
About Patrik Laine
Laine has climbed the draft rankings this entire season, first passing presumptive top-Finnish prospect Jesse Puljujarvi, and now challenging Auston Matthews for the #1 ranking.
It's not hard to see why, either. Laine is 6'4", handles the puck extremely well, and is a very creative offensive player. Also notable: That shot!
That shot! It's impossible to talk about Patrick Laine without mentioning that shot! Here's a goal he scored in Liiga on a 5-on-3:
This is notable for two reasons. First, look at how high that water bottle flew! It was like a foot in the air! The second is just how Ovechkin-like this is. It's stupid to compare 18-year-olds to Hall of Famers, but in this case it's just too hard to ignore. The way he sets up in the high slot and waits for the one-timer is straight from the Alex Ovechkin playblook, and Laine has the shot to pull it off. That's going to be a nightmare to deal with for the Central Division.
Here's another Ovi-type goal from the World Championships. This is what he does. Try and stop it.
A more typical Patrik Laine goal.... 3-1 Finland. pic.twitter.com/GEUwtk3BWn— Patrik B (@Zeb_Habs) May 6, 2016
But it's not just the skills that have people drooling over Laine- it's his production. He scored 17 goals and 16 assists in 46 regular season Liiga games, then added 10 goals and 5 assists in 18 playoff games.
He shone against his peer group at the World Junior Championships, tying Matthews for the tournament lead with 7 goals, and his 13 points were 3rd in the tournament. This includes a great performance in the Gold Medal game, where he registered a goal and assist to defeat Russia.
But most impressively, he's proving himself in the World Championships, an international tournament that includes several NHL players. So far, he has 6 goals and 4 assists in the tournament. It's impossible to understate just how insane this is. The record for an Under-18 player in this tournament is 6 points, and that was set in the 1930s. Laine has 10. And this tournament isn't even over yet.
The one "drawback" to Laine is his skating. It's fine, but not game-breaking speed like Matthews has. Instead, Laine will have to rely more on his puck protection and hockey IQ to beat defenders.
But there can be no doubt about this: Laine is ready to be in the NHL next season. God help us all.
How would he fit with the Wild?
Laine is the dynamic goal-scorer the Wild have been looking for since Marian Gaborik called the Twin Cities home. In a different world, you could see fellow countryman Mikko Koivu doing the heavy lifting defensively for him while Jason Zucker's speed threatens defenses from the opposite wing. You could see Laine immediately take the Alex Ovechkin spot on the power play, giving Bruce Boudreau an amazing threat to build the unit around. You could see his production on an entry-level contract lessen the burden of Jason Pominville's contract on the team.
But this isn't mean to be. This is the Jets' pick to make, and no amount of convoluted internet GM-ing will deliver this pick to the Minnesota Wild. That fantasy will be strictly confined to the comment section and NHL 17.