Coincidentally, today’s prospect preview revolves around the guy who was hyped up by Rhys yesterday. I learned so much from that profile that I’m kicking myself for actually having Nikolaj Ehlers ranked so friggin’ low on my own ballot. It’s not that I didn’t think Ehlers was a guy worthy of drafting (especially compared to a lot of bigger alternatives) but it’s hard to separate Ehlers’ play from that of Jonathan GD’d Drouin’s. Drouin had one of the best seasons of any Québec junior hockey player since Jacques Cartier sailed down the fleuve Saint-Laurent*.
*Okay, Crosby, Lemieux and Bossy were good, I guess.
NIKOLAJ EHLERS – Halifax (QMJHL)
Weight: 163 lbs
Birthdate: February 14 1996
My whole question is when the hell did Denmark become an absolute force in developing hockey players? Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand was third in the WHL in scoring this season, and Ehlers was fourth this season in the QMJHL, behind Anthony Mantha, an overage player, and teammate Drouin. Denmark is slowly turning into a Switzerland-like country as a nation that’s going to start producing one pretty good draft prospect ever draft. Related: I kind of want to go to Denmark now, and also, should the Canucks draft Ehlers, his nickname totally needs to be the “Aalborg Assassin”.
Halifax were absolutely “stomp on your opponents’ neck” good this season. On November 1st, just two months into his QMJHL career, Ehlers recorded a career-high five points in a game the Mooseheads won 15-5 against Rouyn-Noranda. Ehlers also happened to be fifth in playoffs scoring, with 28 points in 16 games, despite the Mooseheads not even making it to the championship series. Drouin earned 41 points in 16 games.
Part of me wants to see Ehlers compete in a season where defences aren’t dedicating every available resource to shutting down Drouin, but I also side with basically everybody who wants their team to pick Nik Ehlers in the draft over a Jake Virtanen or a Nick Ritchie, or *bites lip* even Aaron Ekblad. The opportunity cost of leaving Ehlers on the board is a hell of a lot higher than anybody else who could conceivably fall to No. 6, even if I’m not as sold as Rhys that Ehlers is the safest bet of the bunch.
I don’t like getting into tools when talking about prospects, because the real questions should be “will this player help me win hockey games” and “how many hockey games will this player help me win”. That said, Corey Pronman had to turn on his metaphor machine when profiling Ehlers, whom he ranked fifth overall:
He’s an electrifying offensive talent who stands out on a regular basis. His skating is easily plus—especially his top gear—as he turns defenders regularly. Ehlers generates speed so easily with his first few steps and has a clean, easy stride. He complements that with a large arsenal of stick-handling moves. One scout notes that Ehlers doesn’t just ooze skill, but he can make all the tough skill plays at a high tempo.
By the way, if you’re “oozing” anything, go straight to a doctor.
The majority of Ehlers’ even strength offence (around 70%) also came with Drouin on the bench, so he was pretty clearly driving the bus for his line at even strength.
This number did surprise me a little, but it is worth noting that about 45% of Ehlers’ overall totals were even strength (which isn’t a bad thing. That’s just how it works in the Q) and a lot of Ehlers’ powerplay markers, Drouin was included in on the goal. It’s not a thing that should be worrying, it’s just a thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at a 104-point season.
Here’s an amateurish compilation of four of Ehlers’ goals from this season. My favourite is the third one, where he just skates top speed into a high traffic area and scores before four of the five Victoriaville players know what the hell hit them:
Reading scouting reports about Nik Ehlers is like reading the owners’ manual for a luxury car, right down to the sentence about them both being made overseas. That excites me, and maybe I shouldn’t of** ranked him so low.
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** – That’s the joke