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Joey Kenward: Welcome Nicklas Jensen

by Joey Kenward / Vancouver Canucks

For the second time in franchise history, the Vancouver Canucks selected a Danish-born player in the NHL Entry Draft.

If they can see the same rapid development in Nicklas Jensen over the next few years as to what Jannik Hansen has been able to accomplish, Canucks fans should be pretty happy with this selection.

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Joey Kenward is into his third season as the Canucks broadcaster/reporter for the Team 1040.

Follow Joey on Twitter: @kenwardskorner

Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Canucks picked Jensen in the first round with the 29th overall selection. The 6’3”, 187 lbs. left handed forward spent last season playing with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. Jensen hails from Herning, Denmark, which is the same hometown of current NHLers Frans Nielsen (New York Islanders) and Peter Regin (Ottawa Senators).

“I see myself as a power forward,” says Jensen, who was ranked 21st overall in the NHL’s Central Scouting Service final rankings. “A goal-scoring forward who protects the puck well and creates chances a lot.”

Those comments are backed up by some impressive numbers in his first year of playing hockey in North America. After being the 8th overall selection by the Generals in the 2010 CHL Import Draft, Jensen played in 61 regular season games. In that stretch, Jensen put up 29 goals and 29 assists, good enough for 5th overall in OHL rookie scoring. His production improved in the playoffs for Oshawa, as in ten games he had seven goals and four assists.

In addition, Jensen represented his country at the World Junior Championships for the second year in a row. Both years, Jensen had two goals and three assists in five games for the Danes.

“To make the determination that he wants to come and slug it out in the Canadian Hockey League is really a statement on what this guy’s about,” says Canucks Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman. “For him to come here, and excel, really shows he’s got something inside him.”

This past season was by no means an easy one of transition for Jensen. There were some definite adjustments he faced coming over from Scandinavia.

“The ice surface compared to the size in Europe is a lot smaller,” says Jensen. “The tempo of the game, the physical game, just the quickness of the game….you have to think quicker. I like the tempo. It suits my game well.”

Denmark might not be a hockey hot-bed, but that didn’t stop Jensen by becoming involved in the sport at a young age. Hockey is in the Jensen family as Nicklas’ father Dan was born in Ontario. He played four seasons in the OHL in the late 1980’s before playing 15 years of pro hockey in Denmark.

Of course you might assume Jensen is good friends with current Canucks forward Jannik Hansen, who the Canucks drafted in the 9th round of the 2004 Entry Draft. Even though the hockey community is not that big in Denmark, Jensen is not that close with a player he hopes one day to be team mates with.

“I don’t know him as well as the other Danish guys in the NHL as he’s from a different part of Denmark,” adds Jensen. “I’ve seen him play since I was a little kid. He’s one of my idols of all the Danish players, so I’ve really looked up to him.”

Jensen is expected to attend the Canucks prospects summer camp next month before preparing for his sophomore season in the OHL. So what might be some of the areas of his game he feels he needs to improve upon the most heading into next year.?

“I’ve really been focusing on the defensive zone and it really paid back,” adds Jensen. “I’ve gotten better, but it’s still one of the things I need to be better in, especially if I want to make the next level.”

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