Featuring Oshawa's Nicklas Jensen
The hockey world has witnessed a wave of Danish hockey players drafted to the NHL over the last few years – from Canucks forward Jannik Hansen to Islanders centre Frans Nielsen to Senators forward Peter Regin. More recently, promising Canadiens rookie Lars Eller, the first Danish native drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, and Coyotes speedy winger Mikkel Boedker, have turned heads en route to cementing their place in the NHL.
Another Dane on the rise is Oshawa Generals forward Nicklas Jensen, who is being tabbed as the most promising prospect to come out of Denmark since Boedker. The 17-year old is in his first season with the Generals after plying his trade for his hometown Herning Blue Fox of the Danish Elite League, which is the same team that Regin played for as a teenager.
Each Danish prospect to enter the NHL has been draft higher than the player that came before him. Hansen, the second Dane drafted to the league after Nielsen, was a 287th pick in 2004. Following him was Regin, an 87th pick in the same draft year. There was a two-year void between 2005 and 2007 until Lars Eller made noise as a 13th overall pick by Montreal in 2007.
Another promising young Dane emerged in the spring of 2008 when Mikkel Boedker, who played junior hockey in Canada, became the highest ever Danish draft prospect when he was picked 8th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes.
When Boedker was drafted, Jensen watched with great interest from his hometown of Herning, Denmark as a 15-year old aspiring to play in the NHL one day. Not only does he have the tools to become a quality professional down the road, Jensen may also become the highest drafted player – ahead of Boedker – when he crosses the stage at the NHL Entry Draft this June in Minnesota.
Jensen entered the season as a relatively unknown commodity, but has skyrocketed into the top-10 as the tenth best prospect according to the February rankings released from International Scouting Services late last month.
The 6-foot-3, 185 pound right winger is recognized as a strong two-way forward with a lethal combination of great shooting skills and smooth skating. He is projected to develop into a playmaker at the NHL level because of his vision and ability to find his linemates in tight areas. One area that scouts criticized early in the season was his lack of consistency from game-to-game. Although he will need to round out that aspect of his game, there is no doubting his potential based on his play as of late.
Jensen put himself on the map at the 2010 World Under-18 Division One tournament, where he had a standout performance, with 13 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. Along with his country’s silver medal finish, Jensen was named the tournament’s top forward.
He has posted 26 goals, 26 assists and 36 penalty minutes in 53 games for the fourth-place Generals this season. Along with linemate Boone Jenner, Jensen will likely need at least one more season in the OHL to become a well-rounded player before turning pro.
There are always growing pains for a player with only one season under his belt in the North American game, but the raw talent and size that Jensen possesses at such a young age will have NHL scouts salivating over the prospect of developing him into a lethal two-way player.