Patrik Laine won’t turn 20 until April 19, but he already has 50 goals in 101 games. He’s managed to avoid a sophomore slump thus far, scoring 14 goals and 22 points in 28 contests, which puts him in company with his 2016-17 Calder Trophy rival, Auston Matthews, in that regard.
Going back to Laine though, he could end up climbing fairly high on the all-time goals list for teenagers. Looking at the league leaders for when players were 19 or younger (based on their age at Feb. 1 of that season), Laine is currently tied for 16th place with Phil Housley. If he scores just 10 more goals in 2017-18, then Laine would surpass Jaromir Jagr and move up to ninth place on the teenager goal list. If he scores 25 more goals before the campaign’s over, which is entirely plausible for Laine, then he’d be tied with Sidney Crosby at fourth place. If you’re wondering, Jimmy Carson is the all-time leader on this list with 92 goals before his 20th birthday.
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As mentioned, Matthews has also managed to avoid a sophomore slump with his 13 goals and 26 points in 25 contests this season. Matthews’ 20th birthday came in September, so he’s not competing with Laine on the teenagers' goal list, but Matthews does have 53 goals in his first 107 career games. He’s also just five points shy of reaching the 100-point milestone.
Laine and Matthews have the potential to reach a lot of high milestones over the course of their careers, which makes you wonder how much they’ll command when they’re eligible to negotiate their first post entry-level contracts this summers. Perhaps neither will command the eight-year, $100 million that Connor McDavid got given that the Oilers superstar was coming off a Hart Trophy season, but a case could be made that they should get something in the ballpark of Eichel’s eight-year, $80 million deal.
That will be a key storyline over the summer and into 2018-19 if they don’t re-sign promptly, but for now it’s worth noting that for as well as Laine has done this season, he isn’t the hottest member of the Jets right now. That distinction belongs to Blake Wheeler, who has a goal and a league-leading eight points so far in December. He’s also had three games where he’s recorded at least three points in the span of just five contests.
Wheeler is a player that gradually built himself up, but he’s been performing at an elite level for a while now and this could be his best season yet as he already has seven goals and 36 points in 28 contests. Wheeler was commonly selected around 42nd overall in Yahoo drafts and it’s looking like he should be incredible value for that position. He’s tied with Johnny Gaudreau for third place in the NHL scoring race and while I do think that Wheeler will slow down a touch, it’s not unreasonable to believe that he will finish in the top-10 in points this season.
Alex Ovechkin has also been red hot with three goals and seven points in three games so far in December. That run has moved him up to first place in terms of goals this season with 21 in 29 games. He’s also been climbing up the all-time list as Ovechkin recently surpassed Mark Recchi to claim the 20th spot. Ovechkin currently sits at 579 career goals and his next target is Jari Kurri, who had 601 markers. Keep in mind that Ovechkin is still just 32, so he could continue to climb the chart for quite a while yet.
A couple recently traded players have been hot too. Adam Henrique has two goals and five points in four games since Anaheim acquired him while Kyle Turris has three goals and 12 points in 13 contests with Nashville.
Henrique has been averaging 19:12 minutes per contest in Anaheim, which obviously helps, but as I’ve mentioned before, the real test for him will be to see what his role is once Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are healthy as that duos return could push him down in the depth charts. Enjoy Henrique’s hot streak while it lasts, but keep in mind that this trade might still be something of a negative for his fantasy value in the long run.
Turris is another situation entirely. He’s actually seen his playing time drop from 19:42 minutes per game in Ottawa (where he had three goals and nine points in 11 contests) to an average of 16:48 minutes in Nashville. The good news is that Turris has been getting a decent amount of power-play ice time and that’s been the driving force of his production in Nashville so far. Of his 12 points with the Predators, eight of them have come with the man advantage. Keep that in mind because if he gets less power-play ice time or the Predators’ power play goes through a slump, then Turris could be severely hit.
One player that hasn’t really benefited from his trade though is Matt Duchene. Through 12 games with the Ottawa Senators, he’s scored just one goal and two points in 12 contests. To make matters worse, Ottawa has been in a free fall lately, going from an 8-3-5 record on Nov. 11 to a 9-11-6 record today. The Senators have even been shutout of back-to-back contests going into Thursday’s game against Los Angeles.
It’s too early to declare winners and losers in the three-way trade that sent Duchene from Colorado to Ottawa and Turris from Ottawa to Nashville, but given the high price the Senators paid, this deal is looking concerning so far.