December 18 2012 11:40AM
In the past few weeks, Jeff Angus has done an admirable job of revisiting the Canucks prospect rankings which we published all the way back in the summer. The importance of sample size cannot be overstated - especially with young players, who are notoriously inconsistent - which means that we'd need to see more than 4 months of hockey to make any sort of substantial shifts in the way we view the prospects. But it's always fun to look back and touch base, to see how things are preliminarily shaking out.
Throughout these past few months, I feel as if we have done an adequate job of keeping our readers in the loop as it relates to Canucks prospects, and their AHL affiliate. We have done Chicago Wolves game recaps, with a specific focus on the players that could play an important role on the Canucks in the near future. We have been all over the rising star that is Frank(ie?) Corrado, and his involvement with the Subway Super Series and Canadian World Junior Championship team.
All of those things are close to home, and we're constantly reminded of them. Someone who may not necessarily be on your mind, but should, is prolific left winger Nicklas Jensen. Sometimes it's easy to forget about him - out of sight, out of mind, right? - given that he's playing in an overseas league (that isn't the suddenly booming KHL). But he was ranked 3rd in our Top 20, and friend of the blog Corey Pronman slotted him in as the 3rd best under-22 player in the Canucks organization. He is highly regarded, and his play thus far this season warrants further discussion.
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It's impossible to look at Jensen's statistical line for the season in a vacuum, without taking into account his particular circumstances. I mean, it's technically possible, and I'm sure there are many out there that will do it. But you wouldn't be able to appreciate it for what it really is. And after all, the main objective of stats and such is to lay everything on the table, presenting us with the clearest picture possible as to what's taking place.
In 29 games this season, he has amassed 15 total points, with a minus-9 rating. It seems decent enough on the surface, but the thing that should catch your attention immediately is his goals-to-assists ratio; he has potted 12 goals, while only managing a measly 3 helpers.
What gives with the meager assist total? Well, his team just flat out is not all that good at hockey. His team, AIK, is 11th - out of 12 teams - in the Swedish Elite League, and have registered just 66 goals as a team in 30 games played. We don't need advanced stats to tell us that's not very good.
We also don't need to look further than his team's general lack of talent in an attempt to figure out why he hasn't been able to rack up the assists. If he's not putting it into the back of the net himself, then they're probably not scoring. This likely explains his poor +/- rating as well, but if you read this blog you should be aware of that particular statistics' inefficiency in telling the story.
Towards the end of October, Daniel Wagner brought up Jensen's sparkling play. At that point, he had 8 goals in 15 games, but I was reluctant to get overly excited. He was sporting a shooting percentage north of 25%, which I figured was due for a precipitous regression.
And it has, to an extent. He is now shooting at a clip of 16.9%, which is still slightly elevated, but not one that can't conceivably be sustained. While his 4 goals in 14 games since then aren't as impressive, they're still nothing to scoff at; especially given his situation.
He's a 19-year old that's playing against men in a league that generally isn't all that conducive to accumulating large offensive totals. Perspective is important when judging his performance.
Admittedly, I haven't seen enough SEL hockey to be entirely sure, so I reached out to Pronman for his take on it. He views Jensen's season as generally "positive". Jensen is currently tied for 4th in ice-time amongst forwards on his own team (AIK), yet he has managed to put himself into a tie for 2nd in scoring amongst players under-20. In fact, in the past three seasons no U-20 player has managed to top 12 goals in a full season. He'll eclipse that mark with his next tally.
As for the low assist total, Pronman went on to say that, "the rate is concerning, but I wouldn't read too much into it. I prefer to go under the assumption that things will balance out rather than saying he's a blind fool who can't pass the puck. My money would be on his assists starting to pile up soon enough." For what it's worth, Jensen had 62 assists in 118 games in the OHL for the Oshawa Generals.
Ultimately, I'd say that Jensen's start to the 2012-13 season has been a smashing success. Just like any young player, there will be ups and downs throughout the season. It was a risky decision to willingly go up against grown men, rather than choosing a season of padding the stats in the juniors. However, he has proven to be more than up to the task, thus far. And he should be a better player for it in the long run.
As one final note, in case you're looking for a way to pass the time I'd strongly suggest checking out the SEL's league website. Having Google translate it from Swedish to English provides quite a few harmless laughs. Average time on ice stats are called "Ice Age", hits are a referred to as "Tackles", and penalties are known as "Expulsions". Plus, there's some spectacular names involved. The best of which is Detroit Red Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok, who has his name translated to Calle Iron Hook.