Hockey

There’s been no second-year stoop connected to this NHL sophomore class

His former coach was a bit frightened.

It was every week earlier than the beginning of the season and Jussi Tapola, who had coached Patrik Laine in Finland’s prime league, was speaking about strain, expectations and why some gamers observe up one good yr with a nasty one. Principally, he was speaking in regards to the sophomore stoop.

A yr in the past, Laine and Toronto’s Auston Matthews — the No. 2 and No. 1 picks within the 2016 NHL Draft — had taken the league by storm as rookies. As they entered 12 months 2, some have been predicting Laine would rating 50 objectives and that Matthews, who had received the Calder Trophy as rookie of the yr, would problem for the scoring title.

Tapola, in the meantime, was considering again to 2014-15, when Laine was dropped right down to Finland’s second league and assigned a psychological coach after failing to satisfy his — and everybody else’s — expectations.

“No one anticipated him to do that. There was no strain of scoring objectives and main the group,” Tapola stated of Laine’s first yr within the NHL. “However now when he will get the strain, the psychological aspect of his recreation is at a complete new stage within the second season with everybody now anticipating him to attain and proceed every part. Now we’ll see what progress we made with the teaching and see how he manages that strain.”

It’s secure to say that Laine, who has 43 objectives this season, has averted the sophomore stoop. And he’s not the one one.

The Winnipeg Jets star is on tempo to hit the 50-goal mark and trails Alex Ovechkin by two objectives within the Rocket Richard Trophy race. However he isn’t the one one offering followers with an encore efficiency.

There hasn’t been a one-hit surprise like former Calder Trophy winners Andrew Raycroft or Steve Mason. Nobody has taken a step backwards like Jeff Skinner did when he adopted up a 31-goal rookie season with simply 20 objectives the next yr.

If something, this yr’s sophomores have constructed on what they did as freshman.

Matthews, who will go head-to-head in opposition to Laine and the Jets go to Toronto on Saturday, headed into Friday night time’s recreation in opposition to the New York Islanders with 30 objectives and 54 factors in 57 video games. Regardless of lacking 20 video games due to damage, he’s nonetheless tied for fifth within the league with 28 even-strength objectives and producing at a greater per recreation fee (0.95 factors) than he did a yr in the past (0.84).

Toronto’s Mitch Marner, who had 61 factors final season, has already surpassed that whole with a team-leading 67 factors. Because the All-Star break, solely seven gamers have produced extra. Teammate William Nylander is 4 factors again of the 61 he scored final season, however his plus-17 ranking is an enchancment over the minus-Three he recorded as a rookie.

Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen went from scoring 38 factors as a rookie to 80 factors in his second season. Tampa Bay’s Brayden Level had a 22-point enhance, whereas Carolina’s Sebastian Aho had a 14-point enhance and Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk had an 11-goal enhance.

Toronto’s Connor Brown, who has 14 objectives, received’t replicate the 20-goal season he had with the Leafs final yr. However it’s not a lot a stoop as it’s a reflection of diminished ice time and alternative with the addition of Patrick Marleau.

And but, this wasn’t essentially a clean street for final yr’s rookies.

Matthews has been sidelined by two totally different accidents and Marner, who hung out earlier within the season on the fourth line, admitted that he was annoyed when the factors weren’t piling up within the first half of the yr.

Even Laine struggled. For the primary month of the season, the strain to copy his rookie totals gave the impression to be weighing closely on {the teenager}’s shoulders. He had 4 objectives on 30 pictures in October. And after going 4 video games with out discovering the again of the web, he informed reporters, “It appears like hockey is actually laborious proper now.”

After all, Laine adopted up that four-game drought with a five-game aim streak.

“He places strain on himself as a result of I feel he enjoys it in some methods,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice informed reporters in November. “Filleting himself in entrance of the world — within the hockey world — in some way will get him going, it drives him. So when he’s not enjoying nicely, he’s indignant and grumpy. After which he performed a bit of bit tougher. So he will get a bit of bit snarly within the recreation and issues begin going for him.”

With 12 objectives in his final 14 video games, issues are undoubtedly going for Laine now. It ought to bode nicely for the playoffs. And in case you assume this season was good, simply wait to 12 months 3.

Sophomore slump-busters

Auston Matthews, Toronto
82 GP 40 G 29 A 69 Pts
57 GP 30 G 24 A 54 Pts

Patrik Laine, Winnipeg
73 GP 36 G 28 A 64 Pts
77 GP 43 G 25 A 68 Pts

Mitch Marner, Toronto
77 GP 19 G 42 A 61 Pts
77 GP 21 G 46 A 67 Pts

William Nylander, Toronto
81 GP 22 G 39 A 61 Pts
77 GP 17 G 38 A 55 Pts

Sebastian Aho, Carolina
82 GP 24 G 25 A 49 Pts
73 GP 27 G 36 A 63 Pts

Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary
76 GP 13 G 35 A 48 Pts
68 GP 24 G 25 A 49 Pts

Brayden Level, Tampa Bay
68 GP 18 G 22 A 40 Pts
77 GP 28 G 34 A 62 Pts

Mikko Rantanen, Colorado
75 GP 20 G 18 A 38 Pts
76 GP 27 G 53 A 80 Pts

E-mail: mtraikos@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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