After a long process of complying with Covid-19 protocols, getting work visas, and completing his mandatory seven day quarantine, Patrik Laine is set to make his debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight against the Dallas Stars. This will be Laine’s first game since January 15th against the Calgary Flames, in which he scored two goals, including the game winner, and registered an assist in a 4-3 OT Winnipeg victory.
To address the trade, two days after Pierre-Luc Dubois played a career low three minutes and fifty-five seconds of hockey against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 3-2 overtime loss, the Blue Jackets granted his trade request by shipping Dubois and a third round pick in 2022 to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. This is an unprecedented trade for multiple reasons, most notable being the fact that Laine and Dubois were both top three selections in the 2016 NHL draft by their respective clubs, and the fact that we haven’t seen a disgruntled star swap of this magnitude in recent memory.
For Winnipeg, Pierre-Luc Dubois is a bonafide elite NHL center, solidifying Winnipeg down the middle for years to come. It was reported by the Athletics’ Pierre LeBrun that 15-20 teams called Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen regarding Dubois’ availability, which shows just how highly regarded of a player Dubois is across the league. He’s on a great contract, as Dubois agreed to sign a bridge deal paying him five million AAV for the next two seasons. AB wise, in three seasons of data we have on him, Dubois has only registered one negative season at -0.91, while registering a +4.94 score in 2017-18 and an outstanding +7.30 score in 2018-19. This trade gives Winnipeg the best Center group in the Canadian Division according to AB, and it frankly isn’t even close. The trio of Scheifele/Dubois/Stastny have combined career AB scores of +13.95, the next highest trio in the division is Edmonton’s McDavid/Draisaitl/Turris, which only combine for +8.72. In a league where great teams have to be excellent up the middle, Winnipeg has certainly made that the primary focus of their team. We believe they will be successful, as we still believe they win the Canadian division even after this trade. This season, in five games, Dubois tallied one goal, and zero assists for a single point averaging 14.30 minutes of ice time per night. Dubois also registered an even penalty taken/drawn ratio of 1:1 and a giveaway/takeaway ratio of 1:0 across that five game span, as well as a -2 +/-. Dubois’ debut game with the Jets will have to wait however, as COVID-19 protocols are stricter in Canada as opposed to the US, causing Dubois to potentially have to quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival.
For Columbus, this is without question in our minds the biggest trade in franchise history since dealing Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. Laine has the potential to be Columbus’ best pure scoring talent since Nash, and GM Jarmo Kekäläinen seems to agree. Kekäläinen has been watching Patrik Laine since he was a sixteen-year old kid playing in his native country of Finland and was rumored to have tried desperately to trade up with Winnipeg in the 2016 draft to select Laine originally. Interestingly enough, this is actually the first trade Kekäläinen has made as GM of the Blue Jackets to acquire a player from Finland who is expected to be a key contributor to his team. In fact, Laine will only be the fourth player from Finland to play meaningful games for the Blue Jackets since Jarmo Kekäläinen took over for former GM Scott Howson on February 13th, 2013. Our metric consists of players who play more than twenty NHL games in a season, and the only players to do so over the course of Kekäläinen’s tenure in Columbus to this point are Marcus Nutivaara and Markus Hannikainen. Along with Laine this season, Kekäläinen also signed veteran Center Mikko Koivu, bringing the total to four. As a result of this deal, we were also curious as to what John Tortorella’s coaching of Finnish players over the course of our metric’s history (2007-present) looked like and if those players registered positive scores under him. In doing this, we found that Tortorella has only coached five Finnish players from 2007-present of the 79 total players during that span. This season however, Laine and Koivu will bring that total to seven, meaning that Tortorella will have coached 8.8% of the Finnish players we have in our database. As a unit, these 79 players combine for -99.89 career AB scores and an average of -0.32.
The five players we have on record coached by John Tortorella from Finland are Jussi Jokinen, Lauri Korpikoski, Olli Jokinen, Markus Nutivaara, and Markus Hannikainen. When Tortorella coached the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2007-08, the Lightning traded Brad Richards, who had 51 points in 61 games at the time of the deal, and Johan Holmqvist to the Dallas stars for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern and a 2009 4th round pick. Tortorella was eventually fired at the end of the season and its unfair to assign Jokinen’s -2.74 solely on him. In 2008-09, Tortorella was hired mid-season to coach the New York Rangers. For the same reason as before, it’s unfair to assign Korpikoski’s -2.82 score solely on him. In 2009-10, the New York Rangers traded Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik to the Calgary Flames for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. Again, we can’t base Jokinen’s -1.89 score solely on Tortorella either. This is where it gets interesting however. In researching for this article, we found that players from Finland drafted into the NHL from 2010-present have been significantly better than those of years past according to the career-AB score. Out of the 79 total Finnish players in our database, only 34 are positive career AB players. Of the top 10 Finnish players in our metric to this point, eight of them were drafted from 2010-Present, clearly pointing to a change in the way Finland has been developing their players in the last decade. We can credit Tortorella with Markus Nutivaara’s impressive +2.63 career score, as he played four seasons for him. We can also credit Tortorella for Markus Hannikainen’s +1.06 career score, as he played his only seasons for him in Columbus.
This being said, Tortorella will now have the best player he’s ever had from the country of Finland play his first game under him tonight in Patrik Laine. If we remove Laine’s abysmal 2018-19 score of -13.66, and base his career AB score off of his +3.4 2016-17 score, his +4.48 2017-18 score, and his +3.80 2019-20 score, Laine is holds the 6th highest career AB score held by a Finnish player in our database. He trails only Sebastian Aho (+5.91), Teuvo Teravainen (+5.11), Aleksander Barkov (+4.88), Esa Lindell (+4.03), and Joonas Donskoi (+3.98). If we keep his -13.66 score, he’s a slightly negative career AB player with a -0.49 score. In his career, Laine has scored 140 goals and registered 110 assists for 250 points in 306 games. To compare, Pierre-Luc Dubois has scored 66 goals and registered 93 assists for 159 points in 239 games. Offensively, Laine is a massive upgrade and could be the deciding factor as to who is the “winner” of this start-studded trade. Laine was off to a great start this season with the Winnipeg Jets with two goals on three shots, an assist, an even GA:TA ratio, and a +1 rating until his injury, and we should expect to see him be an immediate factor tonight. Columbus also acquired Jack Roslovic in this deal, who has an impressive +3.05 career AB score including a +4.87 individual score in 2017-18. Roslovic, who was a 1st round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2015, has scored 26 goals and registered 42 assists for 68 points in 183 games. He signed a two-year, 3.8 million dollar deal to stay in Columbus shortly following the trade.
Given the fact Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out and gave the Blue Jackets little to no leverage in trade talks, we think the return Jarmo Kekäläinen got in this deal is incredible. Ultimately, Patrik Laine deciding to stay in Columbus will determine whether or not Columbus made a good decision here. Columbus has had many players depart via trade and free agency including Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Rick Nash and more in the last several seasons, and hopefully Kekäläinen and company can figure out internally what it takes to keep stars in town . Regardless, tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars is a must-watch, as we will certainly be tuning in. We apologize for the lack of content recently, as we’ve been cleaning up the metric and completing some other projects. There will be much more to come, and we look forward to providing much more detailed, lengthy articles going forward.