Fate was certainly with the Winnipeg Jets on April 30, 2016. That was the day the balls fell in their favor and gave them the opportunity to draft second overall.
With that pick, they chose Finland’s second favorite hockey player, Patrik Laine (sorry, but he won’t upend Teemu Selanne anytime soon). The team and the fans have enjoyed the rewards ever since.
Laine has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, and that’s good because the highlights follow him both on and off the ice. When Laine told the Toronto Maple Leafs they should draft him first overall because he’s a better player than their eventual first overall pick, Auston Matthews, you knew he was going to be fun no matter where he ended up.
From his hat-trick of hat-tricks to his draft lottery night interview, here are the top five highlights of a magnificent rookie season.
5. His Draft Lottery Interview
Laine endeared himself to most fans pretty quickly after an amazing first interview during the NHL Draft Lottery.
While most players would get up, try to look half decent and find a nice space, Laine instead chose to stay in bed, lying down, with his glorious flow in full display.
The interview, which Daren Millard described as a “top 3 strangest interview”, was the first time that most hockey fans had seen Laine. His interviews have remained just as fun.
4. Surprising a Little Kid
After a heavy hit, Laine was sidelined for a while. Even though he couldn’t make Jets fans smile on the ice, he was able to make one kid smile off the ice.
The uncle of an eight-year-old kid posted an invitation to Twitter, inviting Laine to join him for a birthday party. He knew it wasn’t likely to work, but figured it was worth a shot.
Laine didn’t come to the birthday party, but he did stop by the fan’s house another day to surprise the kid and drop off a bunch of birthday gifts.
The kid got a meet and greet, a signed jersey and photo, chocolates from Finland and a memory to last him a lifetime.
3. The Identical Shootout Goals
Everyone knew Laine had an incredible shot. Laine knew that Laine had an incredible shot. But we didn’t expect the hands to be just as amazing.
On Nov. 13, 2016, Laine pulled off an incredible shootout move against Jonathan Quick, going forehand-backhand-forehand before easily tucking it through the goaltender’s legs.
It was one of those goals that could only happen once. It looked like Laine hadn’t even tried, it was so effortless. No way he could do it again.
Except for Dec. 6, 2016, where he pulled off the exact same move against the Detroit Red Wings. And again on March 28, 2017, against the New Jersey Devils. I’d say it’s likely that we will see that move again.
2. First NHL Goal
The first NHL goal is always special. Players will remember it forever and the parents will remember it even longer.
And with Laine’s first goal, it was just a teaser for what was to come.
Laine got a pass from Tobias Enstrom, before curling it in and then sniping the top corner. Sure, Cam Ward was screened, but his reaction said it all. He had no idea how that shot went in.
Honestly, I don’t know if anyone knows how — from above the circle and outside the dot, Laine managed to put that top corner. Except for Laine, of course. He knew that was going in.
1. Laine’s Showdown with Matthews
It couldn’t be anything else.
Matthews kicked off his rookie season with a four-goal outburst against the Ottawa Senators. Laine, meanwhile, had only scored once in three games.
The Maple Leafs took over, getting out to a four goal lead. Then this happened.
Laine scored his first career hat-trick, including the overtime game winner, to lead his Jets to victory. Jets fans were a little enthusiastic about it. Meanwhile, Matthews was held goalless.
What was your favorite Patrik Laine highlight from the 2016-17 season? Let us know in the comments below.