DALLAS — Patrik Laine has learned quite a bit about the NHL through his first five games with the Winnipeg Jets.
He already has four goals, three coming with a hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, has already played an outdoor game, and he’s helped turned Winnipeg into appointment television for hockey fans.
With the exception of a 3-0 clunker against the Edmonton Oilers in the Heritage Classic, the Jets have kept it close this season. They’ve overcome a pair of large deficits in victories and had another close call against the Minnesota Wild.
“No matter what’s the score you can’t quit. We’ve been down two times, it was 4-1 and 4-0 and we won both of those games,” Laine said. “You just have to keep going the whole time and hope that you can make those plays and score. Just be on your game the whole time.”
Laine said those early tests will go a long way for the Jets, who have a difficult task in the loaded Central Division.
“That tells something about our team. That we’re not going to give up during games,” Laine said. “We’re going to continue playing our game, I know when we’re playing our game we’re going to get those chances to score.”
And the rookie, who was taken with the second overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, is a key reason the Jets are always a threat to score.
The Finn has a booming shot, which the Jets need to utilize more on the power play, and he has a natural finishing ability around the net.
He’s also feeling comfortable with a group that is looking to overcome lower expectations this season.
“I think it’s been pretty easy,” Laine said. “These are awesome guys and they’ve taken me into this group. I feel like I’ve been part of this group for a long time. I think they have accepted me and it’s nice to be here.”
Laine was also able to pick Teemu Selänne’s brain about playing as a rookie in Winnipeg. Selänne scored an NHL rookie record 76 goals during the 1992-93 season with Winnipeg and was back for the Heritage Classic this past weekend.
Laine grew up a big Selänne fan, “just like everyone else in Finland,” and the two Finns spoke at length during the Heritage Classic festivities.
“We weren’t talking about hockey that much,” Laine said. “Just normal stuff, being here and living in Winnipeg.”
For Laine, the next step is helping the Jets pick up a key win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Both teams are coming off 3-0 losses in their last game out, so it’s a battle of teams looking to send a message.
It’s also a chance for Winnipeg to return to normalcy. While playing in the outdoor game was a unique experience, the fanfare and festivities can make it a very distracting weekend.
“It was a little bit different,” Laine said. “It’s nice to play inside now and for the rest of the season and just focus on improving.”