Associate managing editor Eric He and sports editors Ollie Jung and Julia Poe break down USC’s win on Saturday over Western Michigan.Intro music: 10K by Joakim Karudyoutube.com/joakimkarud
For Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, 2018-19 was a season to forget, as his production dipped toward the end of the year as he played through a lingering back injury. Followed by an offseason of uncertainty given his restricted-free-agent tag, Laine came out swinging to kick off 2019-20 in the way some may not have expected.The 21-year-old is known for his wicked shot, one that has defined his role as a goal-scorer and has made him comparable to the likes of Alex Ovechkin. However, this season, he’s using a different route to emerge as a playmaker. Through 28 games with Winnipeg this season, Laine has accumulated 28 points but 20 of those were assists. At his current scoring rate, he’s on pace for a career-high 80-point season (he missed the first two games toward the end of October) which would also be a 30-point increase from his lackluster showing last season.RELATED: Is Mikko Koskinen emerging as the Oilers starter?Not only that but he has hit the 20-assist mark already which was the exact number of helpers he ended with last year in 54 more games.Looking at his overall play this season, the Finnish forward has been more confident on the forecheck and has also transitioned to more of a pass-first mentality. He’s utilizing his vision and craftiness to not only make creative plays on-the-fly but also by finding his teammates on the ice and giving them the time and space they need to score. Beautiful drop pass by Laine and a sweet finish by KC! #GoJetsGo pic.twitter.com/9KjQjITEve— Daley (@Daley_17) November 3, 2019Over the last two seasons, it’s been Blake Wheeler who’s led the way in assists, all while putting up back-to-back 91-point campaigns in 2018 and 2019. However, this season, the captain is seeing his production take a bit of a toll with just seven goals and 14 assists through 30 games, putting him on pace for 57 points this season.Given that drop, it’s been Laine who has filled the gap, and it’s paying off big-time for Winnipeg. He’s one point behind Mark Scheifele for the team lead in scoring and has helped the Jets go 7-2-1 in their last two games, moving them four points out of the Central Division lead.Winnipeg next faces the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. ET.