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Ready to fly

Ehlers "excited" to sign seven-year extension with the Jets

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

The man affectionately known in the dressing room as 'Fly,' will be doing anything but flying after his entry-level contract expires at the end of the season.

In fact, Nikolaj Ehlers will be staying put, after the 21-year-old signed a seven-year extension with the Winnipeg Jets that will begin in the 2018-19 hockey season.

"This team, this organization, this city. Everything. From day one I was happy here," said Ehlers. "Everyone helped me getting settled from the start. It's amazing playing in front of all these fans. Winnipeg as a city is amazing. They love their hockey. I couldn't see any reason to not want to stay here for the long term."

The speedy winger is coming off a 2016-17 campaign that saw him record career highs in goals (25), assists (39), and points (64).

The offensive part of his game has always been there. In two seasons with Halifax in the QMJHL, Ehlers totaled 86 goals and 205 points in 114 games.

Video: PREGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

What has head coach Paul Maurice excited though, is the development in Ehlers' 200-foot game.

"He's made a huge jump from the end of last year. His training camp this year was really solid in terms of how many times you have to correct where he is on the ice," said Maurice. "He's picking it up. He gets it, he's heard it enough times now.

"It's one of the reasons the lines ended up the way they did. I didn't love Ehlers and Patrik playing together on the wings with either centre. When it wasn't going, you had two really young guys. (Now) Nik's game means I don't feel like I have two young guys on that line, even though their age tells me they are. Nik and Bryan (Little) have a lot of veteran in their game now. We like it."

Also a fan of Ehlers signing his extension is linemate Patrik Laine, though maybe not solely for on-ice reasons.

"I told him already that I'm not going to pay any room service bills any more. That's on him," Laine grinned. "It's nice to see a nice guy like that get rewarded. It's awesome for me, and I'm super happy for him. It's nice to see that this organization thinks, and believes, he's going to be a franchise player for this team. It's just awesome."

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said the negotiations between the club and Ehlers' agent went quickly. It started with a conversation early in the summer, and when there was interest on both sides, negotiations went quickly.

Video: PREGAME | Kevin Cheveldayoff

"It's a real credit to (assistant general manager) Larry Simmons and Nikolaj's agent," said Cheveldayoff. "They really worked hard together trying to find those right numbers. It's all about the openness and honesty that both of them had with each other. I think that's why it came together real quick."

A proud representative of his home country of Denmark, Ehlers has worn the colours of his country on the international stage numerous times, including each of the last two IIHF World Hockey Championship tournaments.

For his efforts, he was named the Danish Forward of the Year in 2015-16, and 2016-17.

"I'm pretty sure everybody back home is excited as well. It's big for Danish hockey. It's big for me. I'm proud of this," said Ehlers. "I didn't want to worry about it during the season. If it was going to come out, there would be a lot of talk. I didn't want that. Not for me, not for the team, and not for the organization. They wanted that as well. So I'm glad we got it done."

Captain Blake Wheeler has played on a line with Ehlers for parts of the last two seasons. He was the first one to congratulate Ehlers on the ice after his first career hat trick during his rookie season, and it was Ehlers that stood up for Wheeler one night in Colorado.

"The strides he made from his rookie year to last year were extraordinary. He's trending in that direction again this year. He had an outstanding camp," said Wheeler. "He's all over the puck right now, playing hard. Some of the areas that could maybe use a little improvement, he's making those improvements. It's going to make him an incredibly valuable asset for our team for a long time."

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