A few hours before Patrik Laine scored his first NHL hat trick I was asking him questions about what it was like moving to Winnipeg from Finland.
When his media scrum wrapped up, he turned the tables and inquired about why I was so interested in his hometown of Tampere.
I told him I’d travelled to Finland over the summer and was hoping to get to the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame – located near where he was raised – during my next visit.
"My picture is already in there," Laine said, flashing a trademark grin. "Don’t be surprised."
That is the kid in a nutshell: Playful, quick-witted, and above all confident. This was back in October ahead of his fourth career NHL game.
They are many of the same traits often associated with Alex Ovechkin – a fitting comparison because Laine may be the best pure goal-scorer to arrive in the NHL since the Washington Capitals superstar.
The 18-year-old missed eight games due to a concussion last month and still enters Tuesday’s game in Toronto tied with Auston Matthews for the rookie goal-scoring lead at 28.
Here’s a look back at five of his goals that stand out:
Oct. 27 vs. Dallas
How about that celebration?
In the same way Laine grew up idolizing Ovechkin, young kids today are going to be mimicking the Finnish sniper. He makes scoring look fun … and much easier than it actually is.
There simply aren’t many players who could beat a goalie cleanly with a wrist shot from above the top of the circle the way Laine does here. Antti Niemi sure didn’t look like he was expecting it.
Jan. 26 at Chicago
That finish, though.
This goal came early in Laine’s second game back from concussion last month – providing a quick reminder that he was back to his old self. What stands out here is how much teammate Bryan Little went out of his way to get Laine the puck.
He’s not missing many of those. All of the Jets know it.
Oct. 13 vs. Carolina
His first career goal came in his first career game and helped the Jets rally late for a victory.
This is another example of the right-hand shooting forward setting up on his off wing during the power play. Ovechkin has made a living from that spot of the ice.
Laine goes post and in. He knows exactly where the puck is going on release.
Feb. 14 vs. Dallas
Truth be told, this entire list could be populated with goals against the Stars. Laine has incredibly scored eight times against Dallas already – countrymen Niemi and Kari Lehtonen will be seeing him in their nightmares – and is no doubt happy he’ll continue seeing the Central Division rival often in the years ahead.
This goal highlights how difficult the guy is to defend.
If he gets any open space to shoot, he’s got a better than average chance of scoring. This goal was the second of three on his night – allowing him to become the first player in NHL history to record three hat tricks before his 19th birthday.
The scary thing? He’s still got 20 more games to add to that total.
Oct. 19 vs. Toronto
This is the signature moment of his season so far.
The first head-to-head meeting with Matthews – the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the 2016 draft – carried an extra degree of hype, and Laine rose to the occasion. Not only did his overtime winner come directly after the Leafs rookie had missed a breakaway at the other end of the ice, but it also topped off a four-goal Winnipeg comeback that saw him score twice in the third period.