Patrik Laine put his name in the NHL record book on Thursday by registering a point in a 14th straight game, and the teenage sharpshooter can now set his sights on a few more milestones before season’s end.
It started with Laine displaying some of that signature skill, a dangle in his own zone that saw him elude Chicago’s Brandon Saad. It ended with Paul Stastny sliding home a one-touch shot, beating Blackhawks netminder Anton Forsberg. And with that one point, a secondary assist on Winnipeg’s first goal in a 6-2 rout, Laine netted himself an NHL record.
You see, with an assist Thursday night against the Blackhawks, the Jets’ sophomore sensation registered a point for a 14th consecutive contest. It’s a streak that dates back to Feb. 16, one day short of a full month. That night against the Colorado Avalanche, Laine put up a goal and two points in a Winnipeg victory, and he followed it up with at least a point — more often than not it was two or more — in each of the next 13 outings. Over that span, he has scored a mind-blowing 16 goals and 24 points, both of which are league-leading totals, and by finding the scoresheet against Chicago, Laine became the first teenager in NHL history to go on a 14-game point streak.
The record for a teenage scoring streak was previously held by Nathan MacKinnon, who recorded at least a point in 13 straight games during the 2013-14 campaign. (Coincidentally, MacKinnon is tied with Laine in scoring over the past month.) But the list of legitimate Hall of Fame talents that Laine eclipsed during this streak is impressive, including the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic, whom Laine matched and passed when he scored points in 12th and 13th straight games. Remarkably, though, Laine’s edit of the record book might not be complete. He’s taken down the teenage point streak, sure, but that may simply allow him to refocus his efforts on a few other marks.
First and foremost, it appears Laine will continue his climb up the all-time teenage goal-scoring chart. Before this streak started, the Jets sniper was outside the top 10, having scored 61 goals as a teenager in the NHL. Slowly but surely, though, he has climbed the charts, passing Bobby Carpenter, Ilya Kovalchuk, Steve Yzerman, Sidney Crosby and, with a goal against the Washington Capitals earlier this week, Gretzky and Brian Bellows for third all-time. Chances are Laine won’t be able to pass Jimmy Carson for first on the all-time list given he scored 92 goals before his 20th birthday, but landing in second spot isn’t out of the question. With 11 games remaining, Laine will need another eight goals before season’s end to match Dale Hawerchuk’s 85 goals as a teenager.
The pursuit of Hawerchuk should see Laine hit another impressive milestone, as well. While the combined Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise history admittedly isn’t as rich as that of the league’s longer-tenured organizations, Laine will need just four goals to move into the top 10 in franchise goal-scoring. He would surpass Dany Heatley’s 80 goals for the 10th spot. And on his way, Laine will break the team record for goal-scoring by a sophomore skater. Having scored 41 goals already, he has already left Ilya Kovalchuk, the Jets/Thrashers’ all-time leading goal and points scorer, in the dust. However, Laine’s next goal will push him out of a tie with Heatley, who registered 41 goals when in his second NHL campaign with the organization, and into sole possession of the best goal-scoring sophomore season in the franchise’s combined history.
Given the way Laine has been scoring of late, too, there’s an honest-to-goodness chance he sets a new franchise mark for goal-scoring. The record, as it stands, is held by Kovalchuk, who scored 52 goals in both the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons. Now, does Laine face an uphill climb to match or tie the record? Undoubtedly, but need we remind you that we’re talking about a guy who is only two games removed from putting the finishing touches on a 12-game run in which he scored 16 goals. Even if he falls just shy of Kovalchuk’s 52 tallies, though, Laine could become only the third player in franchise history to reach the 50-goal plateau. That’s not to mention he’s already only three goals shy of posting the third-best goal-scoring season the organization has ever seen.
Should Laine continue to have the hot hand and score another nine goals and reach the 50-goal plateau, there’s another major personal and organizational milestone in sight, though: the Rocket Richard Trophy. Kovalchuk previously won the award in 2003-04, but did so as part of a three-way tie with Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla. If Laine were to take home the hardware, he would be the franchise’s first clear-cut winner of the award, the first Jet to win a major individual award since the franchise moved north of the border and only the third individual award winner in the organization’s history. Beyond Kovalchuk’s shared Rocket, Heatley’s 2001-02 Calder Trophy is the only other major piece of individual silverware in the franchise’s trophy case.
What stands in the way of any of these milestones, however, is Laine’s ability to continue to pile up goals. When it comes to passing Heatley as a sophomore scorer and on the franchise’s all-time list, it would be foolish to predict that Laine won’t score four more goals in the 11 games left in the Jets’ schedule. He’s been a machine of late, finding twine at a better than one-in-three rate when he gets a shot on goal. Every power play Winnipeg gets over these final outings, too, is one in which Laine is a threat to strike. He’s been the league’s greatest special teams weapon this season, netting a league-leading 18 goals with the man advantage, three better than Steven Stamkos’ second-place total. It should be noted that scoring his 80th goal in his sophomore season would also make Laine one of only two players in the post-lockout era to manage that feat. The others are Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
As for surpassing the individual marks of Hawerchuk and Kovalchuk and earning a Rocket victory, there’s reason for far less certainty. In order to match Hawerchuk, Laine would need eight goals across his final 11 games, and while doable, it seems as though reality is setting in somewhat for the Finnish sniper.
Though he came inches from scoring in his past two games, chances are his nearly 35-percent scoring percentage will start to come down to earth over the next few games and it wouldn’t be surprising to level out into the (still gaudy) 20-to-25 percent range. While still ludicrous, it’s not quite as eye-popping, and if Laine continues to average about 3.3 shots per game — which he has over his current run — it leaves little room for a slump. At 25 percent and 3.3 shots per game over the final 11 games, Laine would score nine more goals before the end of the campaign and surpass Hawerchuk and put himself in prime position to win the Rocket with a 50-goal campaign. At 20 percent, though, Laine would notch roughly seven goals, leaving him one short of matching Hawerchuk and almost certainly behind Ovechkin, who is eying up a 49-goal season, and possibly one or more back of Malkin, who hit 40 last night and could further improve on his 46-goal pace.
All of that said, though, Laine has spit in the face of similar predictions in recent weeks, so it might be time to sit back and just enjoy the show.
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