Cage Match: David Pastrnak vs. Patrik Laine

by Rick Roos on February 21, 2018

Could David Pastrnak be a better fantasy option than Patrik Laine?

Whatever the opposite of choosing between the lesser of two evils is, that’s what’s in store with a battle between David Pastrnak and Patrik Laine. Although both seem poised to be keeper cornerstones and one-year league studs for the next decade plus, here it’s all about picking a winner, so that’s the tough task in store when these two step into the cage!

Career Path and Contract Status

Pastrnak, now 21, was drafted 25th overall in 2014 and earmarked for the AHL, where, despite being just 18, he excelled (28 points in 25 games). With Boston for the rest of 2014-15 he posted 27 points in 46 games, igniting hopes of him being another draft steal with early success, ala Patrice Bergeron. But he stalled as a sophomore, with only 26 points in 51 contests in an injury-shortened campaign. Since then, however, he’s been spectacular, with 70 points in 75 contests in 2016-17 and producing at a similar rate this season.

Laine, 19, was selected second overall in 2016 after a standout season for Liiga, and immediately thrust into a prominent role with the Jets. To say he succeeded would be a vast understatement, as he posted 36 goals (64 points) in only 73 games, for the highest goals per game rate of any 70+ game, 60+ point rookie since Alexander Ovechkin more than a decade earlier. This season, however, his scoring and goals rates are down somewhat.

Pasta’s cap hit is $6.66M, and he’s signed through 2024. Laine’s ELC runs through 2018-19 but he’ll likely be extended beforehand and have a cap hit at least as high as Pastrnak’s for 2019-20 and beyond.

Ice Time

All stats in this table and the others are through February 18th, and SH Ice Time is omitted because neither averaged more than 0:02 of SH duty per game in any season.


Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)


17:50 (D.P) – 3rd

16:42 (P.L.) – 5th

3:06 (D.P) – 1st

3:16 (P.L.) – 3rd


17:58 (D.P) – 4th

17:54 (P.L.) – 3rd

2:37 (D.P) – 3rd (tied)

2:43 (P.L.) – 3rd


13:56 (D.P) – 8th

0:28 (D.P) – 9th


13:58 (D.P) – 10th

1:41 (D.P) – 9th

Seeing Pastrnak’s meager average ice times in his first two seasons, it’s a wonder he managed 53 points in 97 games. In doing so, however, he posted the 61st best points per 60 minutes rate among forwards over that time frame, besting the likes of Brayden Schenn, Aleksander Barkov, James van Riemsdyk, and even teammate Brad Marchand. Since then, Pastrnak has made the most of his added ice time, as over the past two seasons his 3.09 points per 60 minutes is seventh-best among NHL forwards who’ve played 120+ games.

The issue is Pasta might already be at his realistic ice time ceiling, since although Patrice Bergeron and Marchand are averaging, respectively 19:26 and 19:31 per game, nearly 2:00 of that is SH duty, meaning Pasta already skates more non-SH minutes than both. If Pasta isn’t likely to receive more minutes in coming seasons, and he’s already scoring at one of the best P/60 rates in the NHL, his scoring cap might be close to what he’s producing now, or perhaps even less if his luck metrics are unreasonable.

As for player comparables, only four other forwards have ever played under 2800 minutes in their first three seasons while taking the ice for 170+ games and posting 120+ points. One (Jarome Iginla) became a star, a second (Sergei Berezin) fizzled, and a third had solid seasons then faded (Sergei Samsonov). Berezin was 25 as a rookie, so it’s easier to distinguish Pasta from him. Yet Pasta isn’t easy to liken to Iginla, who was a power forward. And Samsonov never scored even 55 points in any of those first three seasons. Pasta’s closest comparison might be the fourth to meet the criteria – Evgeni Kuznetsov, who, although a center rather than a winger, like Pasta had one big season among his first three.

After such a strong rookie campaign, it’s odd to see Laine’s minutes down, although there’s consolation in that his PP time is up, as is his PP usage percentage (51.0% to 58.7%). It turns out every Jets top-six forward other than Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler has seen his ice time decrease from 2016-17 to 2017-18. Call it the Kyle Connor effect, as Connor’s ice time has risen from 12:13 per game last season to nearly 16:44 now. As a result, Laine, plus Bryan Little, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault, have all seen their Y2Y ice times drop by a combined amount that roughly matches Connor’s gains.

If Laine continues his goals pace, he’ll join five NHLers who’ve scored 70+ in their first two seasons as teens. Three became superstars (Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Dale Hawerchuk). But they were centers; the two wingers (Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows) went on to have success, but were by no means major stars. What does this mean for Laine? Maybe nothing, or maybe his early sniping success could suggest peaking early. If nothing else, it’s food for thought ala the Pasta’s comparables.

Secondary Categories



(per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)


0.35 (D.P)

0.34 (P.L.)

0.76 (D.P)

0.84 (P.L.)

0.37 (D.P)

0.49 (P.L.)

2.66 (D.P)

2.86 (P.L.)

0.30 (D.P)

0.39 (P.L.)


0.46 (D.P)

0.35 (P.L.)

0.94 (D.P)

1.09 (P.L.)

0.42 (D.P)

0.45 (P.L.)

3.48 (D.P)

2.79 (P.L.)

0.32 (D.P)

0.19 (P.L.)


0.39 (D.P)

1.02 (D.P)

0.29 (D.P)

2.11 (D.P)

0.02 (D.P)


0.17 (D.P)

0.43 (D.P)

0.24 (D.P)

2.04 (D.P)

0.06 (D.P)

Despite shedding ice time, Laine is shooting more, which is seemingly a great sign. Even still, we’ll check whether his ASD has increased and/or his personal shooting percentage has dropped, since in both cases that could signify more might not mean better. Laine also is responding to his added PP time by more than doubling his PP scoring rate.

But should we count on Laine’s PP scoring rate continuing, dropping back to what we saw last season, or landing somewhere in between? Digging deeper, it took only until game 50 for the Jets to equal the 48 PPGs they scored in all of 2016-17. Are they really that good with the man advantage? Probably not; however, chances are they’ll stay closer to what we’re seeing this season than last, given their young core plus the seemingly ageless Blake Wheeler. And that bodes well for Laine’s PP scoring.

Laine is also quite solid in hits and blocks, although Pasta is no slouch either. As for PPPts, Pastrnak has stayed consistent from last season to this year, and the B’ are in the same PPG percentage rate vicinity as last season, so that screams sustainable.

Although Pastrnak’s 2.66 SOG rate this season seems solid, it’s down nearly 25% from 2016-17. Moreover, of the 18 instances of wingers who scored 75+ points in one of the past four campaigns, only one (Artemi Panarin in 2015-16) had a SOG rate less Pasta’s current 2.66 per game. And the news isn’t great for Laine either, since if we up that threshold to his 2.86 rate the number who posted 75+ points despite a lower SOG rate only jumps to only five of the 18. If instead we go by the 3.48 per game rate Pasta had in 2016-17, the number climbs to 11 of the 18. So make no mistake – in today’s NHL both will need to shoot more to produce what would be considered top fantasy numbers for wingers.

Luck-Based Metrics


Personal Shooting %

Team Shooting % (5×5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

Average Shot Distance

Secondary Assists %


14.1% (D.P)

16.0% (P.L.)

10.42% (D.P)

10.11% (P.L.)

68.0% (D.P)

63.9% (P.L.)

62.7% (D.P)

58.9% (P.L.)

29.8 (D.P)

37.3 (P.L.)

46% (D.P)

42% (P.L.)


13.2% (D.P)

17.6% (P.L.)

8.33% (D.P)

12.61% (P.L.)

70.0% (D.P)

68.8% (P.L.)

56.2% (D.P)

54.8% (P.L.)

33.6 (D.P)


39% (D.P)

53% (P.L.)


13.9% (D.P)

8.74% (D.P)

78.8% (D.P)

49.8% (D.P)

31.5 (D.P)

45% (D.P)


11.7% (D.P)

8.82% (D.P)

77.1% (D.P)

69.2% (D.P)

35.2 (D.P)

47% (D.P)

Pastrnak’s 2017-18 metrics are concerning, especially when his scoring rate is only comparable to last season. In particular, after three seasons of 8.33-8.82% for his team shooting percentage, that number has spiked to 10.42% for this season, and is accompanied by an OZ% of 62%, marking his highest non-rookie figure.

Also, Pasta’s IPP is down for the second straight season, which is understandable due to him playing with two extremely talented linemates. Thus, on one hand that’s a concern because a low IPP means fewer points; however, the fact that it had been higher in the past means it could go up again, in which case suddenly he’s in point per game territory. That also raises an important question – is Pasta being carried by his linemates? One way to try and determine that is by looking at his WOWY (i.e., “with or without you) numbers.

Last season when he and Bergeron skated together, Boston scored 3.25 goals per 60 minutes; when he skated without Bergeron it was 2.55, versus 3.31 when Bergeron took the ice without Pasta. It was a similar story with Marchand, as when Pasta and Marchand skated ice together that rate was 3.77, while Pasta without Marchand translated to a rate of 2.80 and Marchand without Pasta led to a rate of 4.01.

This WOWY data may have been a function of it being his first season playing with talented linemates. But will he keep his coveted role with Bergeron and Marchand? Suddenly that’s less clear, as he was removed from that line at times in the past week, and his ice time cratered. What this seemingly shows is Pasta needs Bergeron and Marchand more than they need him, and his production could be at risk if (when?) coach Cassidy tinkers with lines on a more regular basis. The good news is when separated from Bergeron and Marchand, Pasta was kept on PP1… least for the time being.

For Laine, the number that jumps off the page is his team shooting percentage from last season, which, at 12.62%, was far too high to be remotely sustainable, especially when coupled with his high ASD and secondary assists percentage. His numbers for 2017-18 are more reasonable overall, and we need to keep in mind this is coming with very low ice time, which should improve in future seasons. After all, Laine’s points per 60 over the past two seasons was 2.88, also putting him in the top 20 overall among NHL forwards during that period.

Moreover, the fact that Laine is a sniper with a high personal shooting percentage bodes well for his long-term success. He’s poised to finish each of his first two seasons with 30+ goals and a 15%+ personal shooting percentage, which would make him only the second player – after Eric Lindros – since 1990-91 to meet both criteria. And if we lower the shooting percentage threshold to 14%, that would lump in two other players with whom it would be very favorable to be compared, namely Sidney Crosby and Artemi Panarin.

Who Wins?

This match is another illustration of fantasy value being tied as much, if not in some cases more so, to factors beyond a player’s control as to a his pure talent. If Claude Julien is still coaching the B’s, chances are he doesn’t stick with a “super line” and maybe Pasta doesn’t break out like he has. If Winnipeg wasn’t playing as well as they are now, they might be more inclined to have Laine continue to log more minutes, which would help pad his stats due to him having arguably more raw talent than Pasta.

Going into 2017-18, Laine was being picked 15th overall in Yahoo drafts, versus 42nd for Pasta. I think Laine still has more perceived value (and thus higher cost), because of his status as a #2 pick, the still recent memory of what he did as a rookie, and his higher goal totals. To me, even though Pasta was removed from the top line briefly last week, he still wins in all leagues except those which place a premium on goals. Still, if Laine finishes this season well below his rookie totals, his cost might plummet for fear he was overhyped or a flash in the pan. If so, he’d be worth the gamble in hopes he’ll get more ice time soon and the comparisons based on his shooting percentage and goals ending up being more predictive than those based on his age and goals.


One response to “Cage Match: David Pastrnak vs. Patrik Laine”

  1. starz31 says:

    This is an interesting evaluation, thank you. Just from the eye-test of watching a lot of Bruins games this year (I’m a Marchand-Pasta owner), it just looks like Pasta is a different style of player than Marchand, which is obvious I know, but I guess it’s not surprising that he does better with elite players than without. He’s a sniper with a big shot, who loves to show off that shot, so he needs to be set up and fed. In the right season and team, he can be a 75-80 point player but likely will be that 65-75 point range. Dare I say he has a simialr profile as another former Bruin, Phil Kessel?