Before the Auston Matthews defenders jump down our throats, let’s be fair.
Matthews’ Team USA faced a significantly tougher opponent in defending gold medal winner Team Canada. And Matthews centres a line featuring NHL depth wingers Pat Maroon and Jordan Schroeder.
Team Finland and Patrik Laine, on the other hand, drew Belarus on the opening day of the IIHF World Championship Friday. And Laine has the pleasure of skating alongside top-six Florida teammates Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen.
We’re talking apples and oranges here, so it would be foolish to compare.
Let’s just say that on Friday the oranges were delicious.
Laine’s agent, Mike Liut, told us the 18-year-old would “like to play with a centreman who can find him in a crowd in the middle of Times Square.”
Barkov is that centreman. The Winnipeg Jets, who are selecting second overall at the upcoming NHL Draft, sure hope Mark Schiefele is turning into that type of pivot, too.
Matthews was held pointless with three shots on net and 16:56 of ice time versus a stacked Canada squad.
Laine scored two beautiful, unique goals, added an assist, and became the youngest player ever to score three points in a game in the World Championship en route to a 6-2 victory.
He finished with four shots in 13:31. The youngest Finn to ever play in the tournament probably could’ve scored twice more, seriously.
Here is Laine’s first goal, assisted by Barkov, which the teenager both creates and finishes:
Here’s the second, a trademark Laine slapper:
And one of his impressive near-misses:
While we don’t really believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will select Laine over Matthews, we certainly love the Finn’s outspoken effort to unseat the American.
Finland next plays Sunday versus Germany, while the U.S. takes on Belarus Saturday.