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Laine: Babcock is 'hard but honest, so I respect that'


Patrik Laine was briefly deployed as centre last season and remains open the position change under new Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock. 

Laine told he has spoken Babcock, who was officially hired on July 1, but did not disclose what was said between the two.

"We've talked about it a little bit," Laine said of moving to centre. "I've been working on quite a bit of stuff, but you never know. I mean, there's always a possibility. It's totally up to what they want, but I'd be open to it.

"We had a good talk. [Babcock is] hard but honest, so I respect that. But everything we talked about there is private, and I'm not going to tell you this."

Laine moved to centre for two games in March as the Blue Jackets needed relief at the position after an injury to Sean Kuraly. The experiment, which saw Laine post four assists in two games, came to an end when he suffered a season-ending triceps strain on March 23.

The 25-year-old left winger had 22 goals and 52 points in 55 games with the Blue Jackets last season, his third with the team. 

Babcock is replacing Brad Larsen, who was fired in April after spending the previous two years behind the bench. Babcock last coached in the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20, when he was replaced after 23 games by current head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Along with a new head coach, Columbus has a new-look blueline after adding Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils and acquiring Ivan Provorov from the Philadelphia Flyers. It's unclear whether third-overall pick Adam Fantilli will spend the season in Columbus, but Laine – selected No. 2 overall in 2016 – said he plans to take the 18-year-old under his wing.

"I watched [Fantilli] in the World [Championships]. He seems like a big kid with a lot of skill," Laine said. "I'm excited to have him over here and will try to help him out as much as I can. It's tough to come into the League at 18, as well as a high pick. I've kind of been there and done that."

Columbus missed the playoffs for the third straight year last season, finishing with a 25-48-9 record. The Blue Jackets will have a chance to start this season strong, with five of their first six games on home ice.