Blue Jackets’ Laine Could Score 50 Playing With Gaudreau

When the news of Johnny Gaudreau’s signing broke, many folks around the Columbus Blue Jackets were excited. But perhaps there was no player more excited about the news than Patrik Laine.

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When Laine first heard the news, he couldn’t believe it. “No way,” Laine said when asked about hearing the Gaudreau news. Then he went on to say that he’s never been more excited to start a season than this upcoming one. Who can blame him?

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There is juicy potential in a sniper like Laine playing with one of the best playmakers in the NHL in Gaudreau. The question we need to consider is just how high is this potential?

In order to answer this question, we have to consider several factors. We’ll look at each player’s numbers and some of their history on other teams to get an idea of what to expect. And then we’ll look at how it could play out in 2022-23 on the Blue Jackets. How much impact will their center have on each other if they play together?

A Quick Look at the Numbers

Let’s set a baseline here. Laine is entering his seventh season in the NHL. Below are Laine’s goals in those seasons along with Gaudreau’s assists numbers in that span. This shows the 2016-17 season through last season.

  • Laine goals (36, 44, 30, 28, 12, 26)

Immediately you see the goals in Laine’s first two seasons were 36 and 44. Unsurprisingly those were his two highest shooting percentage seasons at 17.65% and 18.26% respectively. He has not reached those marks since.

Laine’s shooting percentages since have gone 12.24%, 12.4%, 14.6% and then 15.6% last season. His career mark is 15.1%. It is reasonable to expect Laine to finish at his average or higher given who he could play with.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine has never played with anyone like Johnny Gaudreau before in the NHL. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Here’s where it could get tough. At that pace, Laine would have to collect 331 shots in order to reach 50. His career high in a season is 245. In other words to achieve that kind of output, he would have to average over four shots per game. He averaged just under three shots per game in 2021-22 and scored 26.

But when talking about one of the premier snipers in the game, more shots and a higher shooting percentage is possible especially when you bring in someone like Gaudreau. Let’s now look at his last six seasons with the Flames from a playmaking standpoint.

  • Gaudreau’s assists: (43, 60, 63, 40, 30, 75)

Gaudreau averaged about 58 assists per 82 games over the last six seasons. To put this into perspective, only 10 players in the NHL have tallied 300 or more assists since the start of the 2016-17 season and only six of those players have more assists than Gaudreau’s 311. (McDavid, P. Kane, Panarin, Draisaitl, Marner, MacKinnon.) We’re talking elite level production.

Matthew Tkachuk, who played on Gaudreau’s line a lot in Calgary, scored 42 goals in 2021-22 which was a career high and a big reason why the Florida Panthers completed the trade with the Flames. Their center, Elias Lindholm, also finished with 42 goals. His previous career high was 29. Gaudreau was actively involved with both player’s scoring output.

Laine Has Never Had a Player Like Gaudreau

What is really impressive about Laine’s first two seasons with the Jets is not only the goals scored but who he played with. You would expect to see a lot of Mark Scheifele or Blake Wheeler there. But according to Nat Stat Trick, Laine’s two most common linemates were C Bryan Little and F Nikolaj Ehlers. Each are good players in their own right but both are not to the level of Gaudreau.

Related: Blue Jackets’ Gaudreau Wasn’t Signed to Save Their Franchise

Ehlers’ career high in assists is 39. He achieved that mark in Laine’s rookie season of 2016-17. And now Laine potentially gets to play with Gaudreau who is coming off of 75 assists and being part of a line in which his linemates combined for 84 goals?

Laine has played with some talented players in the past but he has never played with anyone as talented as Gaudreau. The same is true the other way around. Gaudreau has never played with anyone with the goal scoring upside that Laine has. If they play on the same line at 5-on-5 and on the power play, Laine could achieve 50 goals. Now let’s look at why.

50 For Laine in Play

First, it’s clear that Gaudreau’s presence elevates his teammates. This includes their center. While the Blue Jackets will have to decide who would center this line, whoever does get the chance should see a massive uptick in production.

The opposition knows just how good Gaudreau is at finding space and getting the puck to open teammates. Their focus is to take away his time and space. This leaves his linemates open and the primary beneficiary of his playmaking.

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Laine should get more time and space as a result. Even if opponents continue to overplay Laine, they now have to account for Gaudreau who can score goals in his own right. Teams cannot lock into one player anymore. If you couple that with the fact the Blue Jackets’ offense was among the best last season, then you see why Laine could get to 50.

The Blue Jackets now possess multiple deadly weapons on their roster. They will now be able to beat you in multiple ways on offense. Who do you key in on during their power play? One of Gaudreau’s biggest assets is getting the puck to the right spot during the man advantage. Laine should see increased production here. In 2017-18, Laine scored 20 of his 44 goals on the power play. We could see this play out again.

In Conclusion

In all, Laine has a chance to produce his best season to date in the NHL. He was a point per game player without Gaudreau last season. Now he has a chance to crack 50 goals for the first time in his career.

Based on Gaudreau’s recent past production, he has shown the ability to elevate the play of their center. That could be Boone Jenner or Jack Roslovic in 2022-23. Laine will also benefit from the increased production from their center.

Given that teams cannot lock in on him exclusively anymore, Laine should have more time and space to shoot and finish more than he ever has in his career.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine should see more time and space given all the weapons the Blue Jackets now have. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

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In the end, this gives Laine a better than average chance for him to hit the 50-goal mark. Even if he doesn’t, increased production is still a viable possibility.

Coach Brad Larsen recently said that Laine and Gaudreau would start the season together but chemistry is a funny thing. Assuming they play and stay together, we could be looking at the most explosive line in Blue Jackets’ history. They get the next four seasons minimum together barring any unexpected trades.

Hope you’re ready for the new and improved Laine show. Gaudreau could be just the player to unlock the true greatness in Laine. 50 goals for him is well within reach.