After a cataclysmic start to the 2013-14 American Hockey League season with the expansion Utica Comets, Vancouver Canucks prospect Nicklas Jensen has managed to fil the net constantly over the past several weeks. On Sunday night Jensen capped off his recent hot streak, which has seen the Danish international player score 10 times in his past 15 games, with an impressive natural hat-trick on against the loaded Rockford IceHogs (the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks).
That a struggling but highly touted 20 year-old forward has simplified his game, upped his shot rate, and has found an enormous level of success lately is good news for the Canucks. It’s also worth breaking down a bit further and we’ll do so on the other side of the jump.
Jensen didn’t score flashy goals necessarily on Sunday night. For his first tally, the Danish sniper pounced on a juicy rebound surrendered by Rockford netminder Jason LaBarbera and proceeded to wire a wrist shot so pretty it may as well have been a seven minute tracking shot in the latest episode of True Detective. Here’s a shoddy Vine of that goal for your viewing pleasure:
For his second goal, Jensen got position in front of LaBarbera and neatly tipped a Henrik Tomernes shot past the netminder.
Jensen’s third goal (which you can view below in crummy Vine form) was the nicest of the three, but that’s mostly because of the passing from Jensen’s teammates Alexandre Grenier and Pascal Pelletier. Jensen meanwhile scores the goal by keeping it simple: getting his stick on the ice, and going to the net.
Jensen’s recent hot-streak has redeemed what was looking like a lost season of development for the skilled former first round pick. After all: 15 games ago Jensen had managed just one goal in 26 games, and was averaging less than two shots per game despite receiving prime power-play ice-time and playing top-six minutes more often than not.
During his current hot-streak things have begun to turn around for the Canucks prospect. The key difference? Shot volume: Jensen is averaging a ridiculous 3.66 shots per game (that’s Colton Sceivour territory!) over the past 15 games.
Of course the percentages have played a major role here too and Jensen is shooting north of 18% on his current run, so yeah, don’t expect the Danish forward to maintain this 48 goal pace over the balance of the current Comets campaign or anything. But based on his size and skill set, Jensen is very probably an above average shooter – certainly there was little reason to suspect that his 1.8 shooting percentage from the first 26 games was anything but a mirage – and if he keeps getting to the net and taking shots on goal at his current rate, he could well be able to look back at 2012-13 as a modestly productive season.
That’s one heck of a salvage job considering where it looked like Jensen’s game was headed as recently as early January.