Prospect Profile: #5 Nicklas Jensen

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The 2013-14 season was one of immense extremes for Nicklas Jensen, whose true talent is almost assuredly somewhere smack-dab in the middle of the two polar opposites his play showed over the course of the campaign. 

Generally speaking most young players tend to carry with them an “inconsistent” label as they acclimatize and work their way up the ranks. Jensen wasn’t able to elude it himself, but much of that traces back to a combination of a preseason injury and some dubiously fluctuating percentages, moreso than anything resembling a legitimately worrisome individual trend.

It seems like ages ago now, but it was this time last year when there was a steadily growing amount of buzz for Nicklas Jensen as a potentially viable candidate to not only make the Canucks out of camp, but actually fill a top-6 scoring role on a team that appeared to be in desperate need of just that.

One of those notions proved to be glaringly true; the Canucks scored the 3rd fewest number of goals as a team, with (somewhat astoundingly) just one of their players reaching the 20-goal plateau. They certainly could’ve used that type of player, but unfortunately he never really even managed to get out of the gate.

Dealing with a shoulder injury Jensen was sent down to Utica to start the season and work on rounding out his game, which wasn’t all that unreasonable a proposition given that he was still just a 20-year old with 28 professional games in North America under his belt.

It’s tough to accurately quantify just how big a role the injury he was nursing attributed to this, but Jensen’s start to the year – much like that of the rest of the Comets – was unfathomably futile. He managed just a measly 3 assists in his first 18 games of the season, only lighting the lamp himself just the one time in the first 26 games of the season to boot. 

I spoke to the Utica Observer-Dispatch’s John Pitarresi about what he saw from Jensen during that time, and his sentiments proved worthy of expanding on:

“He [Jensen] stuck out like a sore thumb when he got here – he was better, faster and smoother than most at this level – but nothing happened for a long while. I’m sure the injury was a big part of it, but I wouldn’t say that it was making him “shy” or anything of the sort. It’s just that he’d be out there, looking like he was going to make something positive happen, and just ultimately didn’t for whatever reason.

Suddenly, things changed. Maybe he was finally 100 percent, and he certainly appeared to be much more confident. Confidence might have been the difference as much as anything, because his talent level is pretty high. I don’t know about getting more shots. I’m looking back at the sheets, and while he had a couple of games with even or eight shots during that run, he was among the shot leaders in most games as soon as he got into the lineup. I guess he figured it out and, again, played with a great deal more confidence.”

The change he’s referring to there is the supernova stretch Jensen went through when the calendar flipped to 2014, in which he was hotter than even Hansel. From January 9th to February 22nd Jensen played in 21 games, scoring 13 times. That included an impressive hat trick in the span of under 6 minutes against the Rockford IceHogs.

The idea that a positive feedback loop of health and confidence played a role likely has some merit as an explanation for what prompted Jensen’s mid-season turnaround, but there’s an even more realistic working hypothesis to be constructed:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 1.03.28 PM

That handy chart is from our very own Josh Weissbock – who did an admirable job of keeping up with the happenings down in Utica all season long – and it shows that Jensen, who was firing shots on net at an elite level all year long, finally earned himself some inevitable good fortune at a certain point. When they started to find their way to the back of the net, they did so in droves. It’s funny how something like that can change the perception of a player.

Taking those findings a step further, it’s worth noting that Jensen’s IPP (Individual Point Percentage) of 0.48 was lower than that of every regular Comets forward except for Alex Mallet. I’d wager that it should both see a natural uptick next season and account for the meager 6 assists in 54 games Jensen mustered down in Utica (which seems almost impossible to do for a player as talented and heavily relied upon as he was).

While it reeks of lazy analysis to use that figure as some sort of indictment against a supposed lack of playmaking abilities, it’s abundantly clear that the most prominent weapon in Jensen’s arsenal remains his shot. Corey Pronman described it as “high-end” last summer, and we saw glimpses of it during his cameo with the Canucks at the end of the season:

Truth be told, there ultimately isn’t all that much to glean from Jensen’s 17 games up with the Canucks to end the year. He drew rave reviews initially, before predictably hitting a dry spell. There are positives to be drawn from the fact that he didn’t look out of place playing against men at the NHL level, even providing fans with some bursts of rare excitement in an otherwise uniformly miserable stretch. But at the same time, starting 66% of his shifts in the offensive zone while being attached to Henrik Sedin’s hip for a large chunk of them certainly didn’t hurt his outlook. 

Regardless, at the moment Jensen appears primed to head back down to Utica – this time with a brigade of far more talented peers – to start the season given the muddied clutter of other options up front, which Willie Desjardins will be tasked with sorting in the coming weeks. 

That’s unless he’s able to stand out in camp with another year of experience to his name now, forcing the coach’s hand. A premise hardly out of the question given the offensive tools he boasts and the deficiencies the Canucks could once again conceivably face heading into 2014-15. Try, try again.

OTHER PROFILES IN THIS SERIES:

  • Why would Jensen be rated above McCann?

    They both scored around a PPG in their draft eligible seasons with McCann being 12 weeks younger.

    Jensen’s scoring stagnated in his final year in junior while we don’t yet know what McCann will do this upcoming season.

    And Jensen has been quite underwhelming as a professional.

    The only thing he has going for him is his fading 1st round status.

    McCann also has the positional advantage as a centre.

    Since none of the CA writers are scouts, this is truly baffling…

    • While it was a short stint, Jensen can say he has done something at the NHL level. It was buoyed by playing with the Sedins, but he did score 6 goals.

      McCann on the other hand has not and thus is further away from being a finished prospect. The fact that we don’t know what will happen is more detrimental for McCann when compared to Jensen, who as mentioned, has actually scored in the bigs.

      Higher potential is one thing but that can go either way and I don’t think CA writers are writing based on just projected ceilings. That would be foolish.

      • That would be the equivalent of saying Kyle Drabek is a better pitching prospect than Aaron Sanchez simply because he’s older…

        Is there anybody credible left in the industry that considers Jensen a top 50-100 prospect anymore?

        We know how much the writers on here emphasize forward scoring rates.

        Jensen certainly doesn’t impress there…

        And we also know that these writers are not scouts so it cannot have anything to do with that.

        As Nietzsche reminded us, one should not be afraid to show the footsteps of one’s thinking…

        • Arugula

          No actually that is not a good comparison. Drabek has many more years of floundering at the professional level than Jensen, while Sanchez has already made it to the majors and his results so far have been great i.e. a lot more than you can say about McCann.

          Was Jensen ever a 50-100 prospect? How many have McCann as a top 50-100? The Canucks system is not deep and he doesn’t crack the top 3/4 here. 3×30=90, 4×30=120

          They actually emphasize shot rates as far as I can tell, which is something Jensen has done pretty well so far in his pro career. Stats are just harder to come by at the junior level so they emphasize scoring at that level.

          All I see is pessimism. (Tangent: you even have the definition of pessimism wrong. Here it is for you – “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.”) I’m not saying Jensen is going to amount to anything at the NHL level, I just prefer to have discussions that involve more than “He sucks”

          • Yes it would have been more accurate comparing Sanchez to Drabek 1-2 years ago…

            “Was Jensen ever a 50-100 prospect? How many have McCann as a top 50-100?”

            If there were credible people within the industry ranking Jensen above McCann, then at least the writers here could suggest that they leaned on these experts…

            “They actually emphasize shot rates as far as I can tell, which is something Jensen has done pretty well so far in his pro career. Stats are just harder to come by at the junior level so they emphasize scoring at that level.”

            And Jensen & McCann scored at similar rates when they were draft eligible.

            What has Jensen done since then to raise his value?

            “All I see is pessimism.”

            That is your own issue unfortunately…

            Tangent: I wasn’t defining pessimism so much as pointing out that one cannot simultaneously be pessimistic and realistic.

            And neither you nor Ryan are pointing out where I was unrealistic in my original comment.

            “I’m not saying Jensen is going to amount to anything at the NHL level, I just prefer to have discussions that involve more than “He sucks”

            Nobody is stopping you or anyone else from forming a logical argument to rank Jensen above McCann…

          • Arugula

            “Yes it would have been more accurate comparing Sanchez to Drabek 1-2 years ago”

            Not really. Drabek had a couple poor seasons at the major league level at that point. Jensen has had one up-and-down season. Plus Drabek was already 24 two years ago. He was nearing whatever career peak he was going to have. Jensen is 21 and still young enough that you can realistically expect improvement. Meanwhile Sanchez was already being hyped up as a top pitching prospect (along with Syndergaard and I forgot the 3rd guy). We need to see more from McCann before saying he’s a top prospect of any kind.

            Decrying their ranking of Jensen as “truly baffling” because he should be ranked maybe 1(!) spot lower is “realistic” to you? When we really have no idea if these guys will be any good in the NHL? Nothing about that sounds unnecessarily dramatic? Or pessimistic?

            What have either of them done to justify that reaction? You said it yourself, they scored at a similar rate in junior. Except one is still in junior and one did ok in his 20-year old season in the AHL

            Also, I actually haven’t said whether or not I would rank Jensen higher than McCann. I just object to your “logic” of spewing ad hominems, constantly moving the goal posts, using straw men, etc.

          • Mantastic

            Nicolino was the third guy.

            “We need to see more from McCann before saying he’s a top prospect of any kind.”

            False.

            McCann may very well never be a better prospect than he is right now.

            http://canucksarmy.com/2014/8/14/4-top-100-prospects-make-canucks-espn-s-9th-ranked-system

            http://canucksarmy.com/2012/9/19/nicklas-jensen-vancouvers-only-top-100-prospect

            If you don’t have Insider, this is one example of what Jensen was considered two years ago and what McCann is considered now…

            “Decrying their ranking of Jensen as “truly baffling” because he should be ranked maybe 1(!) spot lower is “realistic” to you?”

            Sigh.

            1. My regular readers have the ability to seperate the snark from the legit criticism.

            2. I’m simply asking for a logical explanation as to what would lead CA (or anyone, for that matter) to rank 2014 Jensen ahead of 2014 McCann.

            Ranking 2011 Jensen in the same ballpark as 2014 McCann would make sense…

            “What have either of them done to justify that reaction? You said it yourself, they scored at a similar rate in junior. Except one is still in junior and one has done ok for a 20-year old in the AHL”

            Then why not rank Grenier ahead of Jensen?

            And what about Jensen’s shot totals in the NHL?

            “Also, I actually haven’t said whether or not I would rank Jensen higher than McCann. I just object to your “logic” of spewing ad hominems, constantly moving the goal posts, using straw men, etc.”

            Example?

            Other than the ad hominems since I clearly don’t shy away from snark…

          • argoleas

            >> Ranking 2011 Jensen in the same ballpark as 2014 McCann would make sense…

            Would that actually be a good yardstick? Seems to me that when ranking someone, we do need to take into account their experience as well as their potential. Jensen has more experience, and we have seen more and more flashes of that potential. As for McCann, I like all the info we are getting about how his offensive potential may have been underutilized. In any case, seems to me that debating who should be #5 and #6 seems a bit like nitpicking. I think they both deserve to be above Grenier, as per example. But ultimately, we will see how they progress this year. This has to be a very good year for Jensen, otherwise he will go the Schroeder way.

          • Mantastic

            “This has to be a very good year for Jensen, otherwise he will go the Schroeder way.”

            Exactly.

            McCann could fail to improve upon his scoring from last year (as Jensen failed in his draft + 1 year) and he wouldn’t be written off as a prospect.

            He might even be able to hang around top 100 prospect lists like Jensen did in 2012 (though he is nowhere to be found in 2014).

            Both McCann & Jensen scored at similar rates heading into their draft year, were selected around the same spot and, as far as I can tell, were more or less projected to go in the same area by the industry.

            But does anyone in the industry rate Jensen above McCann even though he is, in theory, closer to the NHL?

            Perhaps this is like last year where one writer had Lack as the #1 prospect for reasons unknown…

          • orcasfan

            Slight quibbles:

            1. N Jensen, 2010-11 (draft): Oshawa Generals 61 gp 29-29-58
            2. N Jensen, 2011-12: Oshawa Generals 57 gp 25-33-58; Chicago Wolves, AHL 6 gp 4-0-4

            Jensen had a (slightly) higher points-per-game production, plus he played in the AHL as soon as his season was over. I certainly wouldn’t say he failed to improve on his scoring. He did improve, but only incrementally; what he failed to do was dominate.

            Also: the said “one writer [who] had Lack as the #1 prospect for reasons unknown” actually kinda got it right. He finished the season as the team’s #1 goalie. You might want to choose a different comparison for ranking Jensen higher than McCann…

          • Arugula

            Your “regular readers” seem to enjoy giving you the thumbs-down today. Are you sure you’re communicating effectively?

            Why not rank Grenier ahead of Jensen? Because statistically speaking he’s not as good right now? Because he’s two years older and still not as good? Because there are questions about his defensive game? Because he’s not as skilled or “toolsy”? Because he’s a worse skater?

            “And what about Jensen’s shot totals in the NHL?”

            Not bad for his first 20 game. He was just under 2 shots/game which makes him 3rd line material as far as I can tell (i.e. better than replacement level). If he continues to improve he’ll be the middle-6 guy he was drafted to be. And I’ll repeat myself here. He is young enough that he has some time to improve. Going back to Grenier, he’s older and is closer to whatever peak he will hit which seems to be a fair amount lower than whatever peak Jensen might hit.

            Your dubious Drabek comparison. Bringing up Grenier out of nowhere when clearly he’s not as good as Jensen by any measure, except for height I suppose (I’d argue that’s both a straw man and changing the goal posts). Saying “You’re wrong, here’ what Corey Pronman thinks” (logical fallacy: argument from authority). You’re asking for our logic, where’s yours? Nothing in those articles disagrees with anything I’ve said.

            Jensen has slowly worked his way towards the NHL and looks like he could legitimately play in the NHL. Why does McCann – who is not at all a sure thing to make the NHL – deserve to be rated higher?

          • Arugula

            “Your “regular readers” seem to enjoy giving you the thumbs-down today. Are you sure you’re communicating effectively?”

            Are you new?

            “Your dubious Drabek comparison.”

            Both Drabek and Sanchez were top 25-50 prospects with, according to scouts, great stuff that never matched the fairly underwhelming (for a top prospect) numbers (namely the K/BB).

            Prior to his (so far) successful MLB bullpen stint, it had been suggested that Sanchez was on the same path as Drabek and that the Jays missed their chance to sell high on him…

            “Bringing up Grenier out of nowhere”

            It was simply to point out that he could also see time in the NHL this year…

            “Saying “You’re wrong, here’ what Corey Pronman thinks” (logical fallacy: argument from authority).”

            Haha.

            That is what YOU are saying.

            https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority

            “It’s important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts”

            Hilarious strawman…

            “Jensen has slowly worked his way towards the NHL and looks like he could legitimately play in the NHL. Why does McCann – who is not at all a sure thing to make the NHL – deserve to be rated higher?”

            Neither one is a sure thing to be anything better than a replacement player.

            Thanks for playing…

          • orcasfan

            Wow. Someone really woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. This much outrage over a 5/6 ranking? I’m actually surprised that McCann is ranked this highly by CA given their general hate for him when the pick was taken. Jensen seems like a reasonable prospect — not a sure thing by any means but at least has shown at the AHL and in a very limited appearance in the NHL not to be completely invisible or useless but with clear potential. By that reading he’s probably on par with McCann but a little bit ahead in that we haven’t seen McCann play above major junior. We’re not talking the deep prospect pools of some teams — are you really this exercised by these two rankings?

            I really think you should relax. Save your anger for the top 3, I’m sure you’ll disagree with it. Which is your prerogative. I do wish you’d stop conflating pessimism with realism though.

          • orcasfan

            Wow. Someone really woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. This much outrage over a 5/6 ranking? I’m actually surprised that McCann is ranked this highly by CA given their general hate for him when the pick was taken. Jensen seems like a reasonable prospect — not a sure thing by any means but at least has shown at the AHL and in a very limited appearance in the NHL not to be completely invisible or useless but with clear potential. By that reading he’s probably on par with McCann but a little bit ahead in that we haven’t seen McCann play above major junior. We’re not talking the deep prospect pools of some teams — are you really this exercised by these two rankings?

            I really think you should relax. Save your anger for the top 3, I’m sure you’ll disagree with it. Which is your prerogative. I do wish you’d stop conflating pessimism with realism though.

        • Mantastic

          It was Nietzsche who also claims that he who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you. So I suppose you’ve been forewarned.

    • Dimitri Filipovic

      For whatever it’s worth I had McCann one spot ahead of Jensen on my personal list, but they were both right there for me. I think that having them the other way around is hardly worthy of a “truly baffling”. Jensen played in the NHL last season and figures to be a regular (in whatever capacity that may be, though it’s not like we’re talking Mike Zalewski here) markedly sooner than McCann. That seems like a rather reasonable rationale for having Jensen ahead on the list.

      • asdf

        And Grenier “could” play in the NHL next year as well.

        Replacement players play in the NHL every single year.

        That does not make them legit prospects.

        And, on its own, is not a logical reason to rank Jensen above McCann.

        Another way to look at it is if you would rather have another plate appearance on the Jensen selection.

        Is there a reason to believe Jensen could have been traded for a late first round pick around where McCann was selected?

        Would Bonino, Jensen & Sbisa have got it done for Kesler?

        Kudos for explaing your reasoning, though…

  • Like any other player trying to make the team out of camp, it’s going to be difficult to find a slot for him. Vrbata will be getting the first shot on the right-side with the twins and we still don’t know the long-term effects of Jensen playing without Henrik.

    He could be placed on the second line but he would have to beat out Burrows and Kassian, who are slated to start the season there with Bonino.

    It’s the same story on the third with Higgins and Hansen. Also, if Vey is indeed being locked into the 3C spot, it pushes one of Richardson and Matthias to wing. That makes too many wingers with 1-ways on the team.

    While he could still be put on the 4th line, it would have to be for his benefit. If Desjardins goes with a more traditional look there, he will not get much playing time and when he does play, it will be with the likes of Matthias/Sestito/Dorsett/Richardson. That’s quite a drop in talent level after riding shotgun with the Sedins.

    Having said all that, the best case scenario would be him starting in Utica and thriving down there early, forcing the Canucks to call him up when the annual injury bug hits. With the Canucks’ luck on that front, my guess is we’ll see him on the big club pretty soon.

  • asdf

    Jensen made wayyy to many (and costly) mistakes at the NHL level and turned puck over in the offensive zone too many times, often leading to breakways or rushes the other way. I think he still needs to figure out what he can and can’t do against NHL players and could use more seasoning at the AHL level.

    And while I agree that McCann should probably be ranked higher than Jensen, I don’t think being rated at #5 as opposed to #6 means anything.

  • argoleas

    I believe that Utica will be the better option for him this season. More talent around him and more ice time. Plus, I like the idea of him playing with other prospects that could be later promoted as whole lines. If things go well, that may bode well for future synergy. As always, I’m of the mind that we shouldn’t push prospects too fast. There should be a very high bar for advancing them to the main group. But as always, there will be injury call ups.

  • NM001

    I think this is a gross overvaluation of Jensen ahead of McCann. I look to the sport of Cricket where players drafted in their draft year who have the letter C at least once in their last name always out produce at the pro level those whose last name starts with a J. And for what it’s worth I’m not being a pessimist here, everyone knows I’m an optimist, so it’s really your issue if you can’t see the point I’m trying to make.

  • NM001

    @Dimitri

    “My regular readers have the ability to seperate the snark from the legit criticism.” ~ NM00

    REGULAR READERS, Dimitri. You need to start paying the kid.

  • argoleas

    Since when did this become “Blue Jays Army”?
    Who cares?

    Jensen has hands, speed and size, but I think effort will be something that will elude him more often than we as fans would like to see. And that should limit how much of a goalscorer he becomes.

    And I don’t see him as a two-way player.

  • DrChill

    Unsure about Jensen as a prospect and believe McCann will most likely have a higher ceiling, but that is 100% guess work as I haven’t seen Jared play.

    Really wish people didn’t troll, reason I usually skip the comment section

  • SJ

    Jensen did impress me with his wrist shot while playing with Hank. He seemed to get it off very quickly and it was heavy. Reminded me a bit of Kessler’s. The problem will be if he can make plays without Hank putting the puck right on his stick.

    I don’t believe that Jensen is a top line player but could be 2/3rd line guy if he learns to use his size better. I would put it past him to make the team. That shoulder injury affected Kessler for quite a while. Hoping he shows himself worth of this spot

  • Arugula

    Ya, as some have already alluded to – I’d rather see the young guns tay down in Utica if possible. There will be a lot more talent there this yr, keeps them out of the spotlight in Van and allows them to play big minutes and bond together. They are the next ‘core’ Canucks.

    Plus, it’s gonna be a tough season for Canucks fans next yr. Canucks bolstered the 1 team that they maybe could have beaten out to take a playoff spot (Anaheim). But since they trade Kesler to them for a bag of rocks – Canucks ain’t making the playoffs. And once they run into their usual injury issues – things are gonna sink like the titanic again. I’d rather have the young prospects sheltered away from the hoopla that will be happening in Van next yr.

  • ned

    Biggest acquisition of the off season was Willy D and his team. Canucks should be a good team this year and fun to watch. All the prospects can play in Utica. I don’t want any of them rushed into the show. Vey is our nhl ready prospect right now with 3 full seasons in the ahl under his belt. Would like to see him centering the 3rd line and big strong speedy Mathias moved to wing.

  • orcasfan

    I don’t know why people get hooked in to NMOO’s dialogues so much…Anyway, regardless of whether Jensen is ranked as #5 or #6, he still has potential to be developed into a legit top 6 forward. He has enough tools. What he lacks is well-founded confidence. That could come from a good solid campaign in Utica with a coach that is into developing young players.

    He may end up becoming another Grabner, or….who knows.

    • Canuck4Life20

      Yes, probably right re: NM00.

      If Jensen was down in Utica where would he fit in? Would he be the automatic 1st liner? I’m just trying to figure out what the top-six roles would be in the AHL if we’re trying to develop Shinkaruk, Gaunce, Fox, and Cassels in those positions. I’m assuming Grenier, DeFazio, O’Reilly and a few others would edge out some of their ice time.

  • orcasfan

    Dmitri, if I recall correctly, the advent of Jensen’s scoring in Utica roughly coincided with a shift from LW to RW. It may be that he is more comfortable on his ‘off-side’.

  • orcasfan

    Can we guess the order of the last four?

    4. Corrado
    3. Shinkaruk
    2. Virtanen
    1. Horvat

    This is my guess, not necessarily my preferences. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen Virtanen yet, because the CA writers kept mentioning that his year was probably driven by percentages and linemates. Then again, the Canucks don’t really have a deep system.

    To think we could have had Nichushkin and Nylander…

  • Mantastic

    @Mantastic:

    I’d love to know why you think Virtanen is the top prospect. I don’t know much about him, beyond what I read on CA. (Well, I also saw the youtube highlight packages, and got the sense that McCann actually has more moves than Virtanen, but obviously highlight packages don’t tell you much about a player.)

    The CA writers were pretty down on him, and I didn’t see a similar turn around like with McCann, where additional information made Virtanen look like he was more promising than the numbers show.

    • Mantastic

      He has a higher ceiling than Horvat, Virtanen is a better version of Jensen, same tool set but better at everything.

      Horvat’s foot speed has decreased since being drafted, it’s crazy and I’ve always thought Horvat was overrated as well.

      • asdf

        Don’t think that’s appropriate characterization of Virtanen’s tools. Jensen, according to Pronman, is similar to Grabner, whereas Virtanen projects to be more of a power forward. Similar in that they both skate well and have above average speed and shot, but don’t think you can just take those skills in a vacuum and compare the two players.

        Horvat’s food speed has not decreased, but has actually improved from his draft year according to himself and other scouts. But that doesn’t mean he can’t work on it more. Canucks did ask him to trim down this summer because they want his acceleration in his first strides to improve.

        • Mantastic

          people also think Jensen projects to be a PF, from what i’ve read. both are big bodied, fast skating, scoring forwards; Virtanen is just better at all of the above.

          from what i’ve seen this year, Horvat’s foot speed looks a lot worse, losing weight doesn’t make you more explosive. training explosive makes you more explosive. not saying he’s not strong, but he’s not quick at all.