COLUMBUS — Patrik Laine said he is confident he’ll improve in his second season with the Columbus Blue Jackets but isn’t using last season as motivation.
“I don’t think I need to prove anything anymore,” the forward said after the Blue Jackets held their first training camp practice Thursday. “I think I’ve proved already what I could do in this league, scoring over 40 (goals in the 2017-18 season). It’s not an everyday thing for a lot of guys in this league. I know. I’ve done that already, so I don’t think I’m in that position anymore where I have to prove anything to anybody.
“But I still want to be better. It doesn’t matter if I scored 70 last year, I still want to be better.”
Columbus acquired the 23-year-old and forward Jack Roslovic from the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 23 in a trade for center Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
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Laine entered last season having scored 36, 44, 30 and 28 goals with the Jets in his first four NHL seasons. He had two goals and an assist in his one game for Winnipeg last season before the trade, then scored 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) and was minus-29 in 45 games for Columbus, which failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Laine, who was benched often by then-Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in his final 21 games.
“He didn’t have a great finish with us,” new coach Brad Larsen, who replaced Tortorella on June 10 after seven seasons as a Columbus assistant, said Tuesday. “He admitted it but he’s put that behind him. I’ve put it behind myself, and it’s a fresh start for him.
“He put the work in. He’s excited and he’s energized. That’s the first step. I expect ‘Patty’ to have a better start, a better year, but I expect that from a lot of guys.”
When Laine was asked when he turned his attention to this season, he said, “After I took my skates off after the last game. That was kind of when I had to hit the reset button for myself.
“It was a tough one, but there’s nothing you can do about it anymore. You know as an athlete you’ll go through ups and downs. It would be pretty boring if you were playing good all the time. You’ve got to have bad stretches and even sometimes you’re going to have bad seasons. You just can’t help it. You’ve got to fight it and try to get out of it.
“Now I have 82 opportunities, and hopefully more, to play good. I’m excited about that.”
Selected by the Jets with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine has scored 271 points (150 goals, 121 assists) in 351 regular-season games with Winnipeg and Columbus, and 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 24 playoff games.
The Blue Jackets acquired forward Jakub Voracek in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Cam Atkinson on July 24 hoping that Voracek will get the puck to Laine in prime scoring spots and help boost his production.
“I’ve never really been a numbers guy,” Laine said. “I really don’t set certain goals for the year — I want to score this many goals or whatever.
“I just want to be a better player than I was last year. It’s going to be easy this year because I was pretty [terrible] last year, just try to build off last year and try to be better and have fun this year.”