WINNIPEG — Patrik Laine is preparing for training camp with the Winnipeg Jets, and big things are expected from the 22-year-old forward.
“I assume he’s probably going to have one of the best years of his career given the group of players that we have and the professionalism that is there,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Tuesday. “And the maturity level that all players gain year over year over year, I think just helps us move forward.”
Cheveldayoff’s optimism comes despite the offseason speculation that the Jets could potentially trade Laine, who scored 28 goals last season, the lowest total of his four-season NHL career. Yet, even with the drop in goals, he had 35 assists and averaged 0.93 points per game, each an NHL career high. Laine has scored 138 career goals, tied for seventh most in the NHL since 2016-17.
The Jets acquired center Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 9. Stastny and Laine were linemates when Stastny played for the Jets late in the 2017-18 season, when the Jets advanced to the Western Conference Final before losing in five games to the Golden Knights.
Winnipeg was the only NHL team last season with five forwards with more than 50 points. Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor each scored 73 points, followed by Blake Wheeler (65), Laine (63) and Nikolaj Ehlers (58). Stastny scored 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 71 games last season.
“We think with some of the acquisitions that we’ve made, obviously adding [Stastny], we think we’ve got one of the better if not one of the best top-sixes in the NHL,” Cheveldayoff said. “So we’re excited about having the ability down the middle with Scheifele and Stastny in our top six with the quality of wingers like Patrik and [Wheeler] and Nik Ehlers and Kyle Connor. I think there’s lots of different combinations that can be very, very dynamic. We’re excited and I think you’re going to see some good things.”
Laine, the No. 2 pick by the Jets at the 2016 NHL Draft, is entering the second season of a contract he signed on Sept. 27, 2019; he can become a restricted free agent after this season.
The uncertainty that has surrounded Laine won’t be a factor this season, forward Andrew Copp said.
“I think we’re past the point of outside things distracting our team,” Copp said. “I think whether it was guys in the past who have not had contracts at this time, going into camp, there have been situations left and right, it feels like. I don’t think any outside news or rumors or whatever is going to (have) any sort of impact on our team.”
Laine, like nearly all the Jets players, is in Winnipeg, preparing for the start of training camp Sunday. Jack Roslovic, a restricted free agent, is not among those in the city.
When and if Roslovic signs, he would have to follow the NHL quarantine protocols before he’d be able to practice or play in a game. The forward scored 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 71 games last season.
Winnipeg begins the regular season at home against the Calgary Flames on Jan. 14.