The 2011 draft is a little more than a month away, and we all know that Gordie Clark, Glen Sather, and the collection of Rangers scouts are holding many meetings to discuss potential players on their draft boards. The Rangers have the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, and the first player in the draft that caught my attention –slots to be picked in the middle of the first round– is Niklas Jensen of the Oshawa Generals. The first thing that you might recognize is the team that Jensen plays for, as it is the same team that 2010 second round pick Christian Thomas, and 2009 sixth round pick Daniel Maggio. Jesnsen plays RW for the Generals, so that means he does not play on a line with Thomas, although that doesn’t keep Jensen off the leaderboard in scoring for the Generals.
The 6’3 186 lb Danish winger –playing the off-wing as a lefty shooter– has put together a fine rookie season with Oshawa. In 61 games this season, Jensen netted 29 goals and another 29 assists for 58 points. He also finished with a +14 rating, 42 PIMs, and six PPGs. His season was highlighted by a great points streak midway through the season, where he netted ten goals and five assists in a stretch from December 3 to January 9. Jensen struggled a bit in the playoffs, netting just three points (1-2-3) in ten games, but that is not too alarming as a rookie.
Jensen is quickly becoming the best player Denmark has ever produced, as he possesses all the tools to become an effective NHL player. He has great size, and will continue to improve on his strength as he fills out his body. His skating and hands are both NHL-caliber, but perhaps the skill that sets him above the rest is his shot. He has the ability to pick corners from afar with a cannon of a shot, which is a rare talent to have. Although he is big, Jensen’s game is more of a skilled player’s game, and less of a physical game that North American hockey is used to from someone his size.
The biggest question mark regarding Jensen is his inconsistency, specifically when it comes to moving his feet and using his size to his advantage. Jensen is no small fellow, and should be able to work the boards and the front of the net with relative ease. However, he simply does not do this enough, and it takes away from his game. Jensen’s size also works against his skating ability, as his long stride means he needs to keep his feet moving –which he seems to have trouble doing– in order to be effective. His effort from game-to-game vaires, which is what worries scouts the most.
Consistency issues are generally worked out with the younger kids, but consistency is what many believes holds Jensen back from being a lottery pick. Oshawa has a long history of producing NHL players, and that is attributable to a good coaching staff. Inconsistent rookie seasons are noteworthy, but by all means not alarming or red-flag worthy. Jensen has a ton of talent, has great size, and is playing for a great program in Oshawa with some great players. Jensen has a lot of potential, as do many of the prospects in the draft, but Jensen comes across as a high-risk, high-reward, project draft pick. He has the potential to be a dominant NHL player, but has to find that internal gear to reach that potential.
S/t to to Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch, who has great write-ups on Jensen, and answered a lot of my questions on Twitter.