Nicklas Jensen is a YouTube sensation now, especially in the eyes of Rangers fans who can't get enough of watching the Blueshirt prospect's highlight-reel game-winning shootout goal in last month's World Championships in Russia. Such status brings a chuckle to the down-to-earth Jensen.
"It kind of exploded everywhere socially, it really blew up which was kind of cool," Jensen told BlueshirtsUnited.com over the phone from his home in Denmark last week. "I didn't follow too much on the internet during the tournament itself, but I started to hear that there was a buzz around my goal, which is obviously cool. It was a big win (for Denmark) and that was the most important thing in the end."
The goal, in the third round of the shootout, was crucial for Denmark because it lifted the Danes past Latvia, 2-1, and helped Denmark on its way to reaching the medal round of the tournament.
However it's the flair Jensen scored the goal with which will be remembered by those in attendance--and those who have viewed it time and again on YouTube and various social media outlets. To many, the one-handed finish was straight out of the Peter Forsberg playbook--reminiscent of Forsberg's memorable game-winning, sudden death shootout goal which lifted Sweden to victory in the gold medal game against Canada in the 1994 Winter Olympics.
"I've been doing that move a bunch of times in the AHL and it has worked--maybe only once it didn't," explained Jensen, who sought the advice of former Vancouver Canucks teammate Jannik Hansen, his Danish teammate, before committing to the move. "I knew I had a chance to win the game right there for us so I figured I'd just go ahead and try (this move) and it worked! Then everything kind of exploded everywhere, especially back home in Denmark, but all over where hockey fans are. It was a really cool thing."
That game-winning goal was far from the lone highlight at the 2016 World Championships for Jensen, the 23 year-old forward whom the Rangers acquired from Vancouver last January. Jensen led Denmark with five goals and seven points (5-2-7) in eight games during the tournament, helping the Danish squad reach the quarterfinals where they were ultimately defeated by Finland, the eventual silver-medalists.
"Our whole team played really good and we were really proud of that tournament," offered Jensen who scored two game-winning goals and netted a pair on the power play during the Worlds. "It was only the second time in Danish history that we had reached the quarterfinals, so that helped me enjoy my personal success even more."
Jensen credited his strong play at the World Championships to the confidence he had built up while playing with the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford following the trade with the Canucks. Jensen scored 15 goals and totaled 25 points (15-10-25) in 41 games with the Wolf Pack, becoming one of the team's top two-way players. Including the 27 games he played with Vancouver's farm team in Utica, Jensen finished the season with a career-high 19 goals and a career-best 37 points.
A former first-round draft pick of the Canucks in 2011, Jensen admits he was a bit stunned by the trade to New York, though ultimately, he realizes now, the deal was the best thing for him and his career.
"The Vancouver organization treated me really well for several years and I had a lot of close friends that I had played with there, so when the trade happened at first that's what I thought about the most," explained Jensen. "Hockey-wise, though, this was a great opportunity and I was really happy to come to the New York Rangers organization. I thought it was time to get a fresh start somewhere else with all of the changes management-wise and coaching wise in Vancouver; and I thought it really worked out well for me in Hartford after the trade."
Jensen has 24 games of NHL experience, registering three goals, three assists and six points in those games, though he last played in NHL during the 2014-15 campaign. He is hoping that next season could be the one where he, as a more mature player now, sticks with the team out of training camp and plays his first full season in the National Hockey League.
"That is my goal," stated Jensen. "I am going to work hard this summer, go into camp with confidence, and hopefully play well and have a great year next year."