Had Team North America gone as far as some thought they would at last month’s World Cup of Hockey, we’d already be calling it the Year of the Youngster.
From magnificent opening night performances Wednesday from Auston Matthews; who scored four goals in his NHL debut for Toronto, and Connor McDavid; the second-year forward who answered with a three-point game while playing a defenseman-like 23:27.
Not bad for young guys.
Patrik Laine, who was drafted second overall behind Matthews in June’s draft, continued the party on Thursday night, wasting no time getting on the scoresheet for Winnipeg. Laine buried his first career goal at 13:33 of the third period of the Jets 5-4 overtime win over Carolina.
With the Jets on the powerplay, Laine, camped out at the left point, took the point-to-point feed from Tobias Enstrom before ripping a laser of a wrist shot into traffic and beating Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward top shelf. The goal was part of a Jets rally from 4-1 down within 15 minutes remaining in regulation. The rally was completed with Mark Scheifele’s goal 2:41 into overtime.
Laine, who also had an assist in 18:27 of playing time, is a big body on the wing at 6-foot-5 and 206 pounds. With that trademark wrist shot that was on display on Thursday, the 18-year-old was the best pure goal scorer in the most recent NHL Draft in June, in which he was the second overall pick. Laine’s stock rose rapidly throughout his draft year, in large part due to his showing at the 2016 World Junior Championships, where he put up seven goals and 13 points in seven games en route to Finland winning gold.