CanucksArmy Prospect Profile 2015: #11 Nicklas Jensen

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In his three years since being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, Nicklas Jensen has never slipped outside the top five of Canucks Army’s annual prospect rankings. As recently as a year ago, Jensen registered as high as fifth. 

Whether this was an indictment of the dearth of prospects within the Canucks stable (it was) or a testament to Jensen’s potential (that too), it bears mentioning as we reflect on a development trend that’s taken a turn for the worse over the past year. 

Selected 29th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Jensen is running out of time to show his mettle as an everyday-caliber NHL player. Jensen also happens to check in at eleventh in our organizational prospect rankings!

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, Jensen comes with the requisite size to play an uptempo power forward type of game. Combined with his elite straight-line speed and quick release, it was reasonable to project as much from the Danish import with a certain degree of sincerity. What’s more, Jensen’s physical maturity and plus offense shot loaned itself well to an expedited start to his professional career. Jensen’s draft+1 campaign served him a cup of coffee with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL; in the following year he played for AIK in the SHL (and lit it up) and then suited up with the Canucks for a few games.

That Jensen acquitted himself well in competition with adults so early in his career was a positive omen for his potential development into a bona fide NHL forward. This much was reflected in his PCS scores over that span, which projected Jensen as having as high as a one-in-four chance of making the NHL – given his status as a late first round selection, that’s a good number.

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Worth noting though, is that as his likelihood of developing into an NHL player as increased, the likelihood of his development into an impact player has stagnated (based on a historical statistical analysis of comparable players). Interestingly enough, these developments fall in line with observations made by his head coach with Utica Comets last season, Travis Green.

Which line up nicely with comments made by the head honcho, Jim Benning…

These comments speak volumes of where Jensen sits with the current regime – farm and big leagues alike. There seems to be an organizational emphasis placed on developing Jensen into a two-way force, not entirely dissimilar to his shorter Danish counterpart within the organization, Jannik Hansen. This goes a long way in explaining the frequent healthy scratches and Jensen’s inability to gain any sort of traction within the pro ranks with the Canucks franchise. 

There’s merit to be found in transitioning Jensen’s game to that of a grinding bottom-six force. In three consecutive seasons in the AHL, his production hasn’t hit the level suggestive of a future top-six scoring forward. There remains a skill set worth working with though, and we might reasonably imagine that this is the plan that the Canucks have in mind. 

The plan likely begins with getting Jensen more physically engaged – easy enough, right? This plan of attack worked wonders with Alexandre Grenier last season. If the Zack Kassian saga taught us anything, it’s that the Canucks will not stand for gentle giants. 

Valuable context needs to be added to the equation though, to draw the clearest picture of where Jensen’s development sits. His production – while far from earth shattering – has been strong enough that he hasn’t necessarily sunk his chances of developing into a full-time NHL forward by any stretch. It just mitigates the extent to which we can realistically project his ability at the next level. 

As we trumpet so regularly in this space, there is a massive difference between bad and disappointing. You’ll get no argument that these last two years have fallen firmly in the latter camp, but there is hope all the same. Statistically speaking, there are several very encouraging indicators of potential for NHL success. 

Of course, there will be no larger obstacle to Jensen’s advancement into the NHL than the club’s roster itself. There are very few openings within the Canucks ranks and barring a set of trades or injuries, I would expect it to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Frankly, given the extended stays in the press box throughout the Comets’ playoff run, I’d suggest he focus on consolidating a spot with their lineup first. Baby steps and the like.



  • Spiel

    I really don’t think it’s a matter of Jensen playing a tougher role. I think it’s more of him contributing to more areas of the game. He has a nose for the net, speed and nice hands but doesn’t seem to put in the effort all the time. I think that’s the part he needs to learn.

    He can still be a solid player but has to wrap his head around the notion that you play hard all the time in the NHL. He’s still a legit propect so I hope he starts to put it all together. Some players take more time to develop.

  • Spiel

    Niklas Jensen was a first round pick, 29th overall.

    As the article suggests, big Nik has been slow to develop into a NHLer. I wonder if his lack of ice time with quality players has hurt his production. I thought he looked good ( who doesn’t?) when paired with the twins. He was the finisher to their play making. I hope we can find a way to develop him. I would not like to give up on a prospect with his size, skating and shot at this young age.

  • wojohowitz

    Niklas Jensen was a first round pick, 29th overall.

    As the article suggests, big Nik has been slow to develop into a NHLer. I wonder if his lack of ice time with quality players has hurt his production. I thought he looked good ( who doesn’t?) when paired with the twins. He was the finisher to their play making. I hope we can find a way to develop him. I would not like to give up on a prospect with his size, skating and shot at this young age.

  • wojohowitz

    I`m surprised he`s still a Canuck because I thought he would get dumped at the last draft for a pick. I`d compare him to Michael Grabner as a player the Canucks don`t know what to do with and he will be successful somewhere else and if that happens it will speak volumes about Benning`s very narrow definition of what a professional hockey player should or shouldn`t be which would be not tough enough and not physical enough.

    Players like Jensen need a twenty game look see and simple instructions of an up and down game to get him in his comfort zone and make a decision on his future – something the Canucks won`t do.

    • Double Dees

      Grabner and Jensen had the same opportunities in the Canucks development system. Difference was Grabner scored goals every time he came up from the farm. Gillis at the time, didn’t even noticed Grabner’s production because he wanted Ballard so badley that Grabner became part of the trade for a player that was eventually bought out. But real sad part was the reason Gillis wanted Ballard. Iit was the year Hamhuis was going to become UFA. Leading up to July 1st, his rights was traded not once but twice. Any experienced GM would of figured he was offered top $ as teams that give up assets just to get head start on new contract and pending free agent was looking at something else. All Gillis had to do was Googled Dan Hamhuis and discovered he was from Smithers, BC and when July 1st came, his agent picked up the phone and said to Canucks management you had me at hello. So Gillis would of not needed a top dman via trade and Grabner would of become top six forward with Canucks rather than what ended up being with NYI.

      Funny thing as I am writing this blurb Grabner is on trade block. Jensen for Grabner? He’s coming off surgery but still only 27. Guess NYI thinks Grabner is done so what the hell Benning, you’ve done some unsual trades this summer

      • Andy

        There’s a reason Grabner’s available. Other than that one outlier season he hasn’t really done a ton. Remember that Florida dropped him on waivers too.

  • Double Dees

    Weissbrod’s chart sums it up, Jensen is running out of time. By 25, year of free agency, you either make it or it’s time to get a 9-5 job. Kassian is 24 thus reason he was shipped out now instead of losing him for nothing next year. Chicago trade Clendening out to us because they saw flaws in his lateral skating ability or lack thereof. Benning found this flaw after and made the decision to go with Corrado as both were into waiver eligible year. Unfortunately, Jensen has zero market value especially if you’re consistently scratch at the farm team level. So his best chance is to hope he can become a career minor league waiting years before injuries call him up for one last dance. It’s a harsh evaluation but only the strongest and now younger prospects take your place regardless if you were 1st rd or 2nd.

  • Double Dees

    You have to earn your way into the show, but you also want to provide a real opportunity for a first round asset. I’ve always felt that Jensen wasn’t REALLY given a proper opportunity at the NHL level. Just a couple of cups of coffee.

    Jensen always seemed to me to be a player who performed a little better at the NHL level than in the AHL. Being paired with players with a little skill didn’t hurt either.

    Some players, by luck of the draw, gain an opportunity for a fair look at the NHL level. others players, because of situational ill-luck, are never really granted that opportunity and atrophy in the AHL.

    I fear we have reached that point with Jensen, which is a shame.

  • Double Dees

    Jensen and Grenier are two of the reasons that Dorsett and Prust are on this team. If Jensen copies that style of play, he might actually work his way to a 2nd line.