Patrik Laine Open To Big Change This Season

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine could be in for a big move this season—just a bit to his left, into the face-off circle. At least, that's how he finished his 2022-23 season, albeit prematurely, with a couple of games at center. 

It was last March when the Blue Jackets granted the seven-year veteran his wish to get a look in the pivot, and in two games, it went about as well as could be hoped: he had four assists and was a plus-3 over the pair of contests, while Columbus had 38 shots attempts vs. 29 for their opponents with Laine at center at 5-on-5. 

But, alas, the experiment was cut short after two games when he suffered a season-ending injury to his triceps. 

Will new head coach Mike Babcock pick up the Laine-to-center assessment this season? The 25-year-old isn't saying for sure, but according to Jackets Insider Jeff Svoboda, Laine did admit that he's continuing to work on the position this summer. 

"I'm still open to it," Laine said. "There's still things that need to be worked on, obviously. It's a very responsible position overall. It's a lot of responsibilities, but if it ends up happening, I'm excited. If it doesn't, it doesn't, but at least I've done my homework on that and will try to be fully prepared for that."

Several injuries slowed Laine last season, but he still posted 52 points in 55 games, with 22 goals. He scored 30 or more goals in each of his first three seasons in the NHL, but injuries, for the most part, have slowed his overall production since then. 

It should be very interesting to see if the center experiment continues in 2023-24. 

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports