Saturday, 7 May 2016

So About That Second Pick...

With the opening of the IIHF World Championship yesterday, all the eyes were on the kids who are suiting up in the tournament. As you're probably aware, Auston Matthews was invited to be part of the team for the Americans who also have a number of collegiate-aged players on the roster. The Finns have opted to allow Finnish Elite League Playoff MVP Patrik Laine to be included as part of their lineup, and the decision is already paying dividends for the vast number of NHL scouts at this tournament in Russia. While Matthews was the consensus top pick coming into the tournament, the Toronto Maple Leafs could opt for the high-flying Finn if his production at this tournament remains as impressive as it was on the opening day.

Matthews and the Americans ran into a fairly solid Canadian squad on opening day, and Matthews was held pointless after recording three shots on net in 16:56 of ice-time. Not a bad showing, but nothing for NHL scouts to write home about either.

Laine and the Finns were on the ice against Belarus - hardly a Canadian-like squad - but Laine didn't let the lower echelon of competition slow him down. While the following video is in Finnish, the moves on the ice are understood in any language.
The first goal is Laine showing his speed down the wing before finding Barkov with the drop-pass and heading to open ice. That's a goal-scorer's goal on any sheet of ice, and Laine did well in heading to a high-traffic area. Those instincts will make him a solid sniper in the NHL if he continues to show that kind of heads-up hockey.

The second goal is just an example of Laine's shot, and it appears that it's going to have to be respected. I had heard the comparisons to Ovechkin in the way he shoots, but Laine does have that same mentality to load up the cannon and let 'er rip. He can be effective from the point or the face-off dot with that kind of shot, so there are options for the team that drafts Laine.

Why is this important? Well, the Toronto Maple Leafs select first the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, and it was expected that Matthews would pull on a #34 jersey in the blue-and-white. With Laine playing well against Belarus, some may push Laine ahead of Matthews if he can continue with this kind of production throughout the tournament.

While you won't heard the Winnipeg Jets organization complain about either player depending on who is available at the second-overall pick, many fans in Winnipeg were quietly hoping for Laine to end up in the double-blue-and-white. The potential of getting Laine in a Jets jersey was appealing to almost every Jets fan, but that will all depend on what the Leafs do now and how Laine and Matthews play out the rest of the tournament.

We're only one day in, and we're already seeing the next generation adding their names to great performances in this tournament. Hockey in May is awesome!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: