There are not many players in the NHL that can shoot a puck and score goals the way Patrik Laine can when he is on top of his game. At his best, he is an elite finisher with a bomb of a shot that can change a game in an instant.
A little more than a year after the trade that sent him to the Columbus Blue Jackets, they are starting to see that version of him.
Laine is currently on a heater of a run for the Blue Jackets over the past few weeks and continued on Saturday afternoon by scoring a game-winning goal in the final seconds of regulation against the Montreal Canadiens. It was a vintage Laine shot, blasting a one-timer just under the crossbar on the power play to lift the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win.
With that goal Laine is now on a six-game point streak that has seen him score seven goals and record 11 total points. For the season, he is now up to 13 goals and 26 total points in 27 games. Project that out over 82 games and it is a 40-goal, 80-point pace over a full season. Those would be some of the best numbers of his career, and a huge turnaround from when he first arrived in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets acquired him from Winnipeg in the blockbuster deal that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois the other way, and the early returns last year made it seem like a lose-lose trade for everybody. Dubois struggled in Winnipeg, while Laine and Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella clearly did not click (shocking almost nobody). In the first part of this season Laine dealt with injury and the death of his father, all of which kept him out of the lineup for about two months.
It has been in the month-and-a-half since his return that his game has really started to take off, and especially over the past few weeks.
This is great news for everybody involved.
For the Blue Jackets, this is the version of Laine they were hoping to be getting when they made the trade for him. An elite goal scorer, a star, and a difference-maker at the top of their lineup. They desperately need a player like that, and Laine has all of the tools to be that player. He is still only 23 years old and while his past couple of years have been “down” a little bit offensively, he still has a track record of being a 40-goal scorer in the NHL.
For Laine, it is the simple fact that he is a restricted free agent after this season and in line for a new contract. He is playing out a one-year deal worth $7.5 million and could be playing his way to a nice long-term deal if he keeps scoring goals at this pace.
At this point it is probably too late for the Blue Jackets to make a run for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division or Eastern Conference Wild Card race, but if he keeps playing like this there is a solid core in place here for the Blue Jackets to build around. The Seth Jones trade could be a major building block long-term (netting the Blue Jackets Adam Boqvist, the pick that turned out to be Cole Sillinger, and potentially another very high draft pick this offseason) around veterans like Laine, Zach Werenski, and Oliver Bjorkstrand.