When the Vancouver Canucks selected Danish forward Nicklas Jensen with the 29th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the head coach of the team at the time was Alain Vigneault. Now, roughly five years later, Vigneault is head coach of the Rangers and his current team just acquired Jensen in a trade with his former club on Friday afternoon.
So Vigneault was asked Saturday before his Rangers hosted the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden what he remembers about Jensen from their time together in the Canucks organization.
"I had him one or two training camps when he was 17 or 18, don't remember a lot about him," Vigneault responded honestly, before adding, "There's a lot of potential there, our scouts have seen a lot of potential. Can the player put it all together? That's the question. Time tells you. Some players figure it out, others don't. We'll see here."
Current Rangers assistant coach Darryl Williams coached Jensen in the minor leagues, while current Blueshirts associate coach Scott Arniel also briefly was Jensen's head coach his first year in the minors back in 2012-13.
"I think initially he was slotted in as a more offensively gifted forward, and I think through the years that might have changed where he's more of a two-way player--this is just from talking here and there and hearing from scouts," explained Vigneault. "He was a first round pick and obviously for first round picks the expectations are usually good. He's a young player who has the opportunity to show a new organization what he can do."
Jensen will report to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the American hockey League and will be evaluated further by the Rangers organization.
As for Emerson Etem, who was sent o Vancouver Friday in exchange for Jensen and a sixth round selection in the 2017 draft, Vigneault was complimentary of Etem the person and his work ethic, but admitted that things did not work out as expected on Broadway for the former Anaheim Duck, who had been picked up in a trade this past June.
"I was very optimistic from what I had heard from our scouts about his play," Vigneault said of Etem. "He didn't have the best of training camps, but..we gave him a good run. I think he got a fair look. He got a fair amount of ice time for the performance he was putting out. For whatever reason it just didn't work. He's a real nice young man who works extremely hard and was easy to coach. New York, it didn't work, but maybe in Vancouver it will..and I hope for him it does because he's a nice kid."