A day after Auston Matthews, the No. 1 pick in last spring's amateur draft, scored a record four goals in his NHL debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the spotlight will shift to the Laine, who was drafted No. 2 but openly lobbied to be taken in the top spot.
The Finnish sensation hopes to replicate Mathews' debut when his Winnipeg Jets host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the MTS Centre.
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The Jets have every intention of giving Laine, an 18-year-old right winger, the time to get acclimatized to the NHL and have put him on the third line with another teenager, Kyle Connor, who will patrol the left side of Mathieu Perreault.
With an average age of 26.4, the Jets are the sixth-youngest team in the NHL this season and many observers expect some growing pains after the team finished last in the Central Division with a record of 35-39-8, missing the playoffs last season.
Laine had a quiet World Cup of Hockey last month, registering zero points in three games, but he had a monster year in 2015-16, leading the Finns to the World Junior title over the Christmas holidays and then picking up the most valuable player award at the 2016 IIHF World Championships as the Finns won a silver medal, falling to Canada in the final.
But you don't have to be a rookie to get butterflies before the start of season. Just ask Jets coach Paul Maurice, who has more than 1,250 games behind an NHL bench.
“It's always the same, right? It's mixed with the excitement and then you can feel that NHL tension coming back into your day,” Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press. “It's a good thing.”
“You miss it over the course of the summer. You're planning for it and you know the grind that's coming, but, boy, you live for it. So, we're pretty excited here.”
But as much as the buzz in Winnipeg is centered on the new faces, there's just as much noise about who isn't here. The biggest name to be sent down to the AHL's Manitoba Moose is veteran goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who has been the starter pretty much since the team relocated from Atlanta in 2011. Also sent to the farm from last year's team are C Andrew Copp and RW Anthony Peluso.
The Hurricanes did not pack lightly for this roadtrip. They play their first six games away from PNC Arena — the only team in the NHL with such a schedule — and eight of their first 10.
“With a young team, that's not an ideal situation for us,” Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis told the Raleigh News & Observer. “But it is what it is. And hopefully we get out there and get a few wins under our belt. There's no sense in complaining about what we face. Let's go make the most of it.”
Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, who was claimed off waivers from the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, joined Carolina for one last practice before heading to the airport.
For the first time since the Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina in 1997, the Hurricanes will start the season without a captain. Long-time captain Eric Staal was traded last spring and signed with the Minnesota Wild in the offseason.