ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Patrik Laine has done nothing so far at the World Championship to derail the debate over whether he or American Auston Matthews should go No. 1 in the 2016 NHL draft. If anything, that debate has only intensified. With all eyes on him in Russia, the 18-year-old Laine has scored six goals and tallied 10 points through six games while helping Finland to an unbeaten record.
Laine spoke about the draft, Matthews, his game and more with ESPN.com after Finland's optional practice at Yubileiny Sports Palace in Russia on Monday. Finland plays Canada on Tuesday in what could be a preview to the gold-medal game in Moscow.
ESPN.com: Did you expect to get as much attention as you have in the last few weeks while at the worlds?
Laine: Not quite. It's been a good tournament so far, higher than my expectations before the tournament. It's now nice to play against Canada and hope we're going to win.
ESPN.com: Did you know you'd be receiving so much individual attention about the NHL draft?
Laine: I think when you play well it's obvious, and you're going to have those things around. You just want to have to deal with them and handle them. It's pretty good and stuff.
ESPN.com: What's the question you've been asked the most here? I'm sure you've been asked about Auston Matthews a lot.
Laine: Yeah, they're asking a lot of Auston questions, but maybe more about the draft.
ESPN.com: Have you had a chance to talk with Auston?
Laine: Yes, sometimes after these games, but not much now. I know him. I've talked to him a couple of times.
ESPN.com: What do you respect about his game?
Laine: I think he's a really good player and passes well and obviously can score from good chances. I think he's going to have a good career.
ESPN.com: Do you care if you go No. 1 or 2 in the draft?
Laine: Not exactly. Of course, I want to be the first pick. If I'm second or third or whatever, I think everybody in the top of the draft will get the same opportunity with their teams.
ESPN.com: What have you been happy with about your game, and what do you feel are your strengths?
Laine: I think I can be better on the ice. Those points aren't telling everything about my game. I think I just need to be better on the ice and more careful with the puck.
ESPN.com: What do you look forward to about playing in the NHL?
Laine: I don't know. I'm just focusing on these games now. Maybe I'll think about things after these games.
ESPN.com: Finland has a number of veteran players, like Mikko Koivu. What are you learning from those players?
Laine: They're just giving me a lot of advice during the game and during the practice. It's very nice to play with those guys and get those advices, which I'm going to need and use in the future.
ESPN.com: Are you hoping to get selected to Finland's team for the World Cup?
Laine: I just want to focus on these games. Of course, I want to play like that if they want to get me to the team. But I think if I'm not on the team, it's fine. I have done my best, and that's enough.
ESPN.com: Finnish fans have made their presence known at the tournament. They're so unique and fun. Do you guys enjoy them as well?
Laine: Yeah, of course. I think they've helped a lot of us in the tournament. I think it's so nice that all those people are here from our country. Just want to enjoy these games with our fans. It's just amazing.