As a fantasy owner, should you be concerned with Patrik Laine? It seems ludicrous to even ask that about a player that has scored 105 goals in his first 209 games – two months before his 21st birthday. Laine is still on pace for a 38-goal year which is excellent but there is some concern that he is becoming a one-dimensional player who struggles off the puck and at even strength. We will look more closely at his underlying stats and try to see if Laine should consider putting down his Fortnite controller or if this is just a passing phase in the career of a young superstar.
Laine’s bread and butter is the power play and he has 11 power play goals this season (on pace for 17), down a little from 20 last season. His IPP of 45.16 on the PP (never dipped below 70 in his prior two years) tells us that either teams have learned to neutralize him a little bit better or Winnipeg has changed their strategy. Even with Laine’s contribution diminishing, the Winnipeg PP is excelling at 26.5% (up from 23.4% in 2017-2018), 4th overall in the NHL.
While on the man advantage, Laine is averaging 1.28 shots/game compared to 0.90 s/g from last campaign. With his assist totals almost non-existent, it appears that his function is primarily shooting. The puck is simply not flowing through him as much as it was. It would be less concerning if the Jets’ PP wasn’t doing so well, but Laine is still one of the NHL’s prime trigger men so he should find some middle ground going forward.
It is at even strength that we start to see Laine is struggling. He has always been relatively sheltered with 58.54% offensive zone starts in the two prior years, but has actually seen that increase to 67.42% this year. He has historically been in the lower half of Jets in shot share, but after 54 games he is near the bottom of the Winnipeg lineup (47.14%) and as a result his GF% has dipped to 42.5%, quite down from his career average of around 55%. To drill that down even more, his HDGF% (Percentage of High Danger Goals) has steadily decreased from his rookie year of 56.52% to 37.21% this year.
Laine is still generating shots at a high rate this season (3.37/game compared to 2.94/game in 2017-2018) but his shooting percentage has dipped to 13.7% from his career average of close to 18.0%. His career PDO has averaged above 103 compared to 991 currently, which might tell us that his shooting percentage is closer to his career average than what it is right now.
If you are in a league that puts a premium on goals then Laine will always be a player that you want on your roster but if you are in a multi-category league then he might not be the complete player going forward who will get you the secondary stats you might covet. At only 20 years old, he is a phenomenal talent with an innate ability to score that very few possess. In order to help teams in multi-categories he will need to elevate his play away from the puck and as a result he might need to sacrifice 5-10 goals a year.
As a pending RFA at the end of this season, he will surely command over $9-10 million per year now that Matthews has set the bar. My advice would be to hold him in any pool that doesn’t have a salary cap and rewards goals, but I might be willing to sell in a pool that has a salary cap and has other secondary point categories. It is always a risk moving on from a potential future 50-goal scorer, but if you can get the right return you might benefit in the long run.
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