An extensive selection of dynamic, two-way centremen and game-controlling defenceman has forecasted a striking tale for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
Naturally, those positions are only a portion of the roster puzzle. The 2011 class is deep with skill in all areas.
While Gabriel Landeskog and Sven Baertschi have nabbed attention on the wing, several others will make their name known as the opening round progresses later in June. Teams with late-round picks will have an incredible opportunity to select elite-level talent.
Currently ranked 21st among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Oshawa Generals right-winger Nicklas Jensen produced a tremendous season in southern Ontario.
In 61 regular season games with the Generals in 2010-11, Jensen amassed 29 goals and 58 points, capping a remarkably successful rookie campaign in North America.
"We've done really good so far," Jensen spoke of Oshawa’s second-place finish in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. "But we’ve got to keep battling in the last few games and win the series."
Oshawa pushed, but the Generals have since been eliminated from the post-season with a 4-1 series loss to the rival Niagara IceDogs. Disappointment aside, Jensen was now able to look back on an otherwise successful year.
"It's been a pretty good season. I had to get used to the game and as more games I played, I think the better I got," he said. "With the experience I got better and better."
Jensen spent the 2009-10 campaign in his hometown of Herning, Denmark, where he played 34 games with the Blue Fox Hockey Club. He accumulated 12 goals and 26 points that season, helping to enhance his increasing role as a budding goal-scoring threat.
"It was a unique team. I was playing with players that were almost twice my age, but they helped me learn some things that I needed to know. I think that made the change to North America easier."
When asked to describe his well-developed game, Jensen was clear in his intentions to become a better two-way player, while still stressing the importance of his untapped scoring potential.
"I'm probably an offensive player. With the puck or protecting the puck, I’m a goal scorer," he said.
"I'm trying really hard to make my defensive play better, because that's a really important thing in hockey. That's definitely one of the things I'm focusing on right now."
With NHL role models Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby being his source of inspiration, Jensen is looking to embark on a similar development path en route to his NHL dream.
"Everything in your game I think you can improve," he said. "We talk about that in practice. We practice over-and-over in the defensive zone, the neutral zone and the offensive zone. ... It's a never-ending process."
So far, so good.
At 6’3" and 186 pounds, Jensen is developing a well-rounded game that should translate well to NHL competition someday soon. He skates extremely well for a big man and uses his size to his advantage when necessary. Regaining control of the puck is never an issue with the poise and recovery skills that he possesses.
"I help out as much as possible in the defensive zone," Jensen said. "I use my feet and my body, get open for a pass and then go up ice to try and score goals."
Oshawa’s success this season has been guided by the players’ enthusiasm to engage in all areas. Teammate Boone Jenner, Oshawa’s top centre with 25 goals and 66 points in 63 games this season, is currently ranked 18th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Much like the situation in Niagara, with IceDogs teammates Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome battling for ranking supremacy, Jensen and Jenner are having fun with the newly created rivalry.
"We both pretty much stayed in the same spot this time," said a smiling Jensen. "It’s not really serious, but we want to beat each other. We both want the bragging rights."
The 'score' will ultimately be decided on the weekend of June 24, 2011.
"Obviously I’m excited. It will be so much fun. I’m really looking forward to it."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com