BUFFALO — Back in 1988, the Winnipeg Jets were forever changed when they used their first-round pick on Teemu Selanne.
Twenty-eight years later, the ‘Peg landed another high-scoring Finn with franchise-defining potential.
The Jets did the expected on Friday night, selecting 18-year-old super prospect Patrik Laine with the second overall selection at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The decision came after Toronto took American phenom Auston Matthews at No. 1, paving the way for Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to select Laine, a gifted offensive winger with the size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and pedigree to play immediately in the NHL next season.
In May, Laine became the youngest player in the 80-year history of the World Hockey Championships to win MVP. He finished with 12 points in 10 games and tied Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist for the tournament goal-scoring title. He set up the game-winning goal against the host Russians in the semifinal, and was also named the tournament’s top forward.
Following that performance, Laine made some big statements at the scouting combine. He said he thought he could be the next Alex Ovechkin. He said he has the ability to be the best player in the NHL. He said he was just as good as Matthews, and his goal was to go No. 1 overall.
Laine will now have to settle for second overall. But he may have fallen into the perfect situation.
The Selanne comparisons have been endless, and with good reason. There’s the heritage. The’s the lethal release and shot. The ability to pile up massive goal totals. There’s also the unforgettable energy that Winnipeg had during Selanne’s rookie campaign, when he scored a still-record 76 goals.
While it’s unfair to think Laine will match that kind of production, it’s easy to think Jets fans will be equally excited about his arrival — and Laine seemed excited about it, too, when asked about the possibility of landing in Winnipeg during the Stanley Cup Final.
“It would be nice to play there, of course, where he used to play,” Laine said. “The city was crazy about him.”
Probably going to be crazy about Laine as well.