The next Great Dane
By Derek Jory
For the second time in franchise history, the Vancouver Canucks have drafted a Danish forward in selecting Nicklas Jensen with the 29th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Assistant general manager Laurence Gilman braved the podium at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to announce the selection; Vancouver’s brass was booed as they approached the stage and even as Gilman thanked the Wild and the “great state of hockey for its hospitality,” before congratulating the Boston Bruins on their Stanley Cup win and making the pick in honour of E.J. McGuire, former director of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau who recently passed away, the boos continued to rain down.
No one is booing the selection of Jensen, the third highest Danish player ever drafted and the 375th player taken in Vancouver franchise history.
The 6-foot-2, 187-pound forward, Central Scouting's 21st ranked North American skater, spent the 2010-11 season with the Oshawa Generals, collecting 58 points (29-29-58) points in 61 games to finish fifth in rookie scoring.
During his first campaign in Oshawa, Jensen, the eighth overall pick of the 2010 CHL Import Draft, was also steady in the post-season with a team-high seven goals and four assists in 10 games.
On the international stage, Jensen helped Denmark win the Division I 2011 World Junior Championship. In 2009-10, he recorded 26 points (12-14-26) in 34 games with Herning Blue Fox Denma.
All his hard work has paid off as he joins Jannik Hansen as the second Danish member of the Canucks.
“It’s great,” said the 18-year-old during an interview with TSN. “Coming from a small country like Denmark, it’s amazing to be a part of something like the NHL and I’m so proud of being a player with the Canucks now and I’m really looking forward to the future.”
In Oshawa, Jensen had family within reach as his paternal grandparents Poul and Utta Jensen and two uncles lived nearby in Richmond Hill, and he’ll have the closest thing to family in Vancouver with fellow Dane Hansen on the Canucks. The two have never met with Jensen hailing from Herning and Hansen a product of Herlev, but a countryman will surely sooth the transition.
Jensen shouldn’t struggle with on-ice transition when he is ready to make the jump to the NHL and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis can foresee him being a bruising presence up front.
“I think he’s got a great opportunity to be a power forward,” said Gillis. “He can score, he’s got good size and good speed and that’s exactly what we were looking for, so we’re really pleased we were able to get him.”
Jensen is a second-generation OHLer as his father, Canadian Dan Jensen, played two and a half seasons with the Peterborough Petes prior to joining the Guelph Platers for half a year; he then played 16 seasons professionally in Denmark, where he met his future wife Majbritt.
Dan scored one of two goals for Denmark in a 2-2 tie with Canada at the 2003 IHF World Championships in Tampere, Finland, which is still considered a historic draw for the Lions.
Like his dad, Nicklas is a highly skilled player, a finess player with great speed that is a goal scoring threat some have compared to Jussi Jokinen, a Finnish forward for the Carolina Hurricanes coming off back-to-back 50-plus point seasons.
Generals head coach and general manager Chris DePiero has seen Jensen play more than anyone of late and he likes what he sees, according to the team’s official site.
“He’s a game-breaker,” said DePiero. “He has great vision with a great shot. Not only does he have the ability to score goals, but he has a strong desire to score goals and works hard for his opportunities.”
“We are happy and proud of Nick for what he has accomplished. He came in and had a great year with us and made the adjustment to the North American style of game.”
Jensen is the first of seven players the Canucks are scheduled to draft between Friday and Saturday; Vancouver’s next selection is 60th overall, then 90th, 120th, 150th, 180th and finally 210th.
Stay tuned to Canucks.com for the latest on Vancouver’s dealings at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.