In late March, when Patrik Laine limped off the ice against the Los Angeles Kings after blocking a shot, the status of the Winnipeg Jets winger's left leg quickly became a minor international incident. In Laine's native Finland, newspapers published dueling doctors' prognoses. Fans tweeted at the Winnipeg Police Department, wondering if authorities might press charges against the culprit who fired the puck, Kings defenseman Alec Martinez. The verdict: No, but Laine "deserves an Atta Boy for his dedication to duty (and defence)."
As I passed through customs in Winnipeg the next day, a border agent interrogated me about the purpose of NHL Coins my visit. I revealed that I was in Canada for business, as a journalist -- and, finally, after some additional prodding, that I was a sportswriter covering hockey. "Ah, I bet you're here for Laine, huh?" she said. "I hope [his injury] is not too serious."
Such deadpan has become a signature for Laine, who has captivated the league -- both because of his scoring prowess and his personality. Since being drafted No. 2 overall in 2016, Laine has scored 79 goals -- the third-most by a teenager in NHL history, trailing only Dale Hawerchuk and Jimmy Carson (and, yes, even more than Wayne Gretzky). With his 6-foot-5, 200-plus-pound frame, wicked shot and dexterity around the left faceoff circle, Laine profiles as the next Alex Ovechkin. And while the league recently celebrated the 32-year-old Washington Capitals winger for becoming the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to reach 600 goals, it's worth noting that Laine could reach the feat at an even younger age than Ovechkin, who made his NHL debut in 2005 at age 20. Laine won't turn 20 until April 19.