We are less than two weeks into the 2021 NHL season and we already have our first blockbuster trade of the year—second-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft Patrik Laine was traded from Winnipeg to Columbus for third-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft Pierre-Luc Dubois Saturday afternoon. The move has major implications for both the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets, but for the Nashville Predators as well.
With the newly aligned conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nashville will see more of Patrik Laine than expected with his entrance into the new Central Division. However, this doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Don’t get me wrong, Laine is still an elite scorer, but he has weaknesses.
Our old pal Micah Blake McCurdy (also known as @IneffectiveMath on Twitter) was quick to put up a few charts for everyone on the trade.
Patrik Laine (to Columbus) does not generate 5v5 offence but he drives 5v4 and has a wicked shot. He is one of the shoot-first-est players in the league. Defensively he's not great but not as black [red?] as he's painted. pic.twitter.com/SzC9b9xlAD— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 23, 2021
As you can see from the above tweet, Laine is in no way a lesser player, but he is beatable. You don’t want Laine on the power play, where he will shine offensively, and goalies know he will put the puck on net any time it’s on his stick, so he’s still a very dangerous player. This can cause concern for a team like Nashville who’s struggled on the penalty kill in recent seasons, and will also provide a tough test for Juuse Saros who is trying to establish himself confidently as the Predators’ top goalie (Pekka Rinne’s shoes are big ones to fill, especially when he is still on the team). Nashville can take advantage of Laine’s weakness on defense and his lack of offensive impact on 5v5.
If Preds fans are looking for more reason to feel optimistic about this trade, Evolving-Hockey.com put out a chart that doesn’t look quite as favorably on Laine.
Laine has a strong individual impact on creating goals, but struggles when it comes to creating quality shots, has poor impact on shot attempt generation, and is especially bad defensively when it comes to his help limiting shots and chances against.
Dubois appears on paper as a more solid player all around than Laine. As pointed out by McCurdy in his charts, he drives 5v5 offense, shoots above average, and doesn’t have a negative impact defensively.
Also included in Saturday’s trade is Columbus native Jack Roslovic. He’s made a much smaller impact in his time on the ice, but at 23 still has great potential.
Jack Roslovic (also to Columbus) is a fair bit weaker, a (slightly) below average forward in every aspect of the game. He hasn't really been given serious minutes and he's quite young. He could change a fair bit. pic.twitter.com/sZiBJaXPfZ— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 23, 2021
I think it’s too early to say who won the trade. Laine and Dubois are both young, highly skilled players in their prime. While Laine is more finesse and Dubois is a more completely two-way players, both will benefit and likely improve their game with their new teams. When it comes to how the trade will impact Nashville, I think the Predators will benefit more by seeing Dubois fewer times if they can keep their penalty minutes down against Laine.
As for next season...let’s take it one year at a time.