Nicklas Jensen was Rookie of the Year in Denmark in 2009-10, then led all Oshawa Generals rookies in
all categories when he moved to the OHL last year. He’s impressed more than a few people.
(Photo from theprovince.com)
Nicklas Jensen was born in Denmark, raised in Denmark, began played hockey in Denmark, and even played for the Danish national U18 and U20 teams.
But Nicklas Jensen is far more Canadian than you would think.
It’s a real shame that Nicklas Jensen isn’t yet an established 25-year old working on his second contract. If he did, he’d likely be the perfect fit on the second line for Ryan Kesler and the answer to Gillis’s woes about finally finding a big, strong, swift skating top 6 winger.
But he’s not 25. He’s only 18. And he’s not established. But he is bursting with potential. As a 17-year-old, Jensen came to the OHL to play in North America for the first time. As a member of the Oshawa Generals, Jensen dazzled with some very impressive numbers. In 61 regular season games, he had 29 goals and 29 assists for 58 points. He was fourth in team scoring, tied for third in goals and was the top rookie on the team in all categories. In the playoffs, Jensen continued to impress with 7 G 4 A 11 Pts in 10 GP. Again, tops for all Generals’ rookies and was tied for second in goal scoring. His Oshawa Generals made it to the second round of the OHL playoffs, before being knocked out 4 games to 1 by the Niagara IceDogs.
But this was not out of the ordinary for the young Dane. The previous season he played for Herning of the Danish league, which happens to be the same team for which his father, Dan Jensen, played defence for 15 seasons. The senior Jensen was born in Richmond Hill, ON then moved to Denmark to play professional hockey. Now retired, Dan has returned home to Richmond Hill, less than an hour’s drive away from Oshawa where Nicklas now plays. The younger Jensen was only 16 when he played for his father’s former Danish team in 2009-10 but still played a full season and put up some great numbers. in 34 GP, Jensen had 12G 14A for 26 Pts, then played 10 games in the Danish playoffs and notched 6 goals and 4 assists.
In his very short career, Jensen seems to be establishing himself as a player that steps up his game during the playoffs. And that is likely one of the reasons why the Canucks thought so highly of him. High enough to draft him 29th overall in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft this past June. At 6’3" and approaching 190 lbs, he is a big, growing kid with tons of skill and speed. For a kid that only started playing in North America one year ago, he adapted pretty quickly.
In his report on Jensen from The Scouting Report, Mike Kloepfer has some encouraging comments about the young Dane:
In combination with his skating ability, Jensen has great hands, and can often be seen going coast-to-coast and can really make things happen with little to no room. Of the 29 goals he scored in the OHL this season, a few of them could possibly be called goal of the year. This really speaks to the finishing ability that Jensen possesses and could translate into a 30 goal scorer at the next level. He is the type of player that if you give him an inch he will take a foot which makes him a difficult player to defend.
The switch really turned on for Jensen last season once he returned from the Christmas break, after playing for Denmark in the World Junior Championships (B pool). People immediately noticed a change. Especially and most importantly, his Oshawa Generals coach sure took notice. In an interview with NHL.com, Generals Coach and GM Chris Di Piero said of Jensen, "He’s starting to take off. Certainly after Christmas, after he returned from the World Junior B pool and spending some time at home, since he’s been back he’s been on fire. It’s renewed confidence for him. He’s proving that the accolades coming his way are well deserved."
One area where Jensen certainly improved after Christmas and then into the playoffs was his consistency, and that has to be encouraging to Canucks fans. Brendan Ross at The Hockey Writers notes that Jensen projects quite highly in the NHL, provided he can keep the consistency going.
The former Rookie of the Year in the top Danish League projects to become a top-6 scoring forward with 30+ goal scoring upside. However, the inconsistencies in his game are alarming and there is a “bust” potential if Nicklas cannot find a way onto scoresheets more regularly. His pro-calibre shot and intriguing offensive potential will surely make him a first round selection but his all-too-common disappearing acts could find him sliding further than his talent warrants.
Nicklas Jensen possesses all the tools to get started in the NHL. For that, the Vancouver Canucks and their fans should be excited. And he is now reclaiming his Canadian roots. Coming back to play in Ontario where his father was born and where his father played junior hockey, Jensen is already adjusting very well to North American hockey. While he still has plenty of growing and maturing to do, he is well on his way to becoming a force in the league. It’s just a shame that he can’t make the leap this year, because he would sure look good at Kesler’s size. Soon enough, Canucks fans. Soon enough.