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Sleepless in St. Paul

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Nicklas Jensen couldn’t sleep.

The sheep had been counted, his pillow re-fluffed, he even drank a glass of warm milk in hopes of inducing a few more minutes of shut-eye.

None of it worked, so Jensen hopped out of bed and ran to his parent’s room to wake them up.

With coffee pots still empty, the morning paper yet to be delivered and toasters everywhere at ease, it was much too early for such an enthusiastic rise and shine from Jensen, but as parents know, anticipation can be overwhelming for young kids and there’s no use trying to contain it.

And by young kids I of course mean 18-year-olds, especially on the morning of the NHL Draft.

“I was too excited to sleep,” laughed Jensen, inadvertently referencing a classic Walt Disney World commercial.

The morning of June 24, 2011, was an exciting one for Jensen, who was ranked 21st by NHL Central Scouting and was subsequently counting down the seconds until the 2011 Draft began.

Canucks fans know Vancouver ultimately picked the 6-foot-2, 187-pound forward with the 29th overall selection, but the rollercoaster ride of emotions he experienced throughout the day justified his early rise that morning.

Jensen expected his name to be called in the first round and there was never a Plan B put in place in the unlikely event that it wasn’t, not that the Jensen family spent the day working through scenarios.

“We didn’t talk much about it,” said Jensen. “We went out for an early breakfast and left the hotel before 8 a.m. to just go walk around Minnesota. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel later on that I was talking to my parents and I got nervous.”

Really, really, really nervous.

“We went to the rink a couple hours early and walked around, my mom had never seen a rink that big, so it was fun. But I was getting very nervous by then. It was a nerve-wracking day.”

Waiting in the stands at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the 49th NHL Entry Draft to begin, Jensen wasn’t alone in feeling anxious. Prospects were everywhere, each with their fingers crossed tighter than the next, yet none of them had what Jensen had: a lucky shirt, a gift from his girlfriend.

At one point Jensen thought neither he or the shirt would make it onto the stage.

“You never know, but we kind of knew that I wasn’t going to be drafted in the top 15 players. I was ranked 21st and I wasn’t expected to get drafted right on that spot either. As the draft went, there were a couple players taken in the first round who got drafted early, so it got all switched up. Then it went past the 22nd spot, then the 25th, so I was just like …okay, okay…. then it hit 27th spot and my dad started to try and cheer me up saying the second round was still great.”

As doubts began to cloud Jensen’s mind, his attention was drawn away from Laurence Gilman, Canucks VP of hockey operations & assistant general manager, who was announcing Vancouver's selection, and onto this father, Dan.

“He scared me a little,” laughed Jensen. “Mr. Gilman said ‘he was ranked 21st in Central Scouting…’ and then my dad just jumped up, he knew it was me. Then it hit me and that was pretty special. My mom didn’t even know what was going on, she was just so happy, so that was pretty cool to see my name on the big screen.

“I can’t even explain it. It was relief and happiness.”

That was the beginning of the madness.

“It was a long walk to the stage and the camera guy fell in front of me. He fell on another guy and I kind of stopped, I didn’t know what to do, so it was a funny walk. I just stood there for five seconds before I kept walking up to the stage to say hi to everybody. It was a little bit crazy."

And it got crazier.

“I got my jersey, got my picture taken, then said hi to everybody, then Mike Gillis and I had a live interview right next to the stage and I was kind of nervous for that, but everything went well.

“Then we took a lot of pictures with me in the Vancouver jersey and you get your hat and all that. Then you go to the media room and a bunch of questions come at you and you take care of that, then it was up to the Vancouver suite and I met my parents and my agent and we sat there for an hour or two and just talked.

“Then we went home to the hotel and it was too late to celebrate, so we just stayed in our room and laughed and talked for a half hour.

“I had no problems going to sleep that night.”

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