And it was all going so well. After getting demolished on an open ice hit, following a ill-timed pass, Laine has been ruled out indefinitely as he is treated for a concussion. Laine has been the fantasy steal of the season despite the hype surrounding him. Neither he nor Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews figured into the top 100 in preseason rankings.
Only Pittsburgh Penguins C Sidney Crosby (26) and Los Angeles Kings C Jeff Carter (22) have more goals than Laine and Matthews, who are tied for third in the NHL with 21 goals apiece. Pair that with a healthy dose of assists, and Laine is a top-15 producer.
Until he's officially placed on injured reserve, owners are stuck holding onto him unless they have an IR+ spot. Without a concrete timetable, hands are tied. There is obviously no situation where Laine should be dropped. This kind of production is rare, not only among rookies but all players. How well he plays when he is healthy, or when that even is, is mere speculation.
Perhaps an unsung element of his production has been his physicality. While not a heavy-hitter of Wayne Simmonds proportions, Laine has 50 hits credited to him, which is enough to clearly propel his value above Matthews' in banger leagues.
Don't be surprised if LW Kyle Connor gets recalled for an extended look on the wing. It will depend wholly on who he skates with, however, if he's to be worth a waiver wire pickup. In-house, RW Drew Stafford could see his role expanded. There is no rush to pick him up, however.
Waiver Wire Options
- LW Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames: Laine's fellow rookie, Tkachuk is riding a nine-game point-streak and has gotten a fair share of time on the Flames' power play. In leagues that reward penalty minutes, Tkachuk has added value as he finds his way to the sin bin with regularity. Expect his profile to keep growing, especially as Calgary's second line continues to flourish.
- LW/RW Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators: Arvidsson is nursing an upper-body injury that kept him out of Friday's game and is expected to sideline him Sunday evening. His return is within reach, however, since he was skating on Sunday morning. Arvidsson has been an effective option on either wing with 25 points in 38 games.
- C Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets: Another in-house option to replace Laine, Little has been a solid producer since his return from injury, even if he has cooled a bit in three January games. He's best suited to standard-scoring leagues, but he is readily available and should be relied upon more in Laine's absence.