October 29, 2010
Throughout the year, Buzzing The Net is profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their NHL draft season.
Nicklas Jensen is unique — a rookie import who is a second-generation Ontario Hockey League player.
"I have a little Canadian in me, but I'm 100 per cent Danish," says Jensen, the 6-foot-3, 186-pound right wing who has fit in well with the Oshawa Generals.
Jensen's father, Dan Jensen played four OHL seasons before playing and settling in Denmark. His claim to fame came in 2003 when he scored a goal in Denmark's famous (or infamous) 2-2 tie with Canada at the worlds. The younger Jensen is intent on making more strides for Danish hockey, eyeing Mikkel Boedker, the former Kitchener star who was drafted eighth overall in 2008 by the Phoenix Coyotes.
"I would like to go, like, the top Dane ever but it's hard," says the 17-year-old, who is generally seen as a late first or high second-round pick. "You never know. It's a long season and it's young. You have to take it one game at a time. He was eighth overall, that's shooting pretty high."
Jensen, who has 10 points (6G-4A) in 13 games for the Generals (7-3-1-2) has a unique setup in Oshawa. He has more familial support in close proximity — paternal grandparents Poul and Utta Jensen and two uncles reside in nearby Richmond Hill — than many North American juniors. Meantime, he's getting a better grasp of his draft stock since he's in the OHL, where the comparisons were more apples-to-apples.
"I love that I have competition with two teammates who are also '93s, Boone Jenner and Lucas Lessio," says Jensen, who last season was Denmark's rookie of the year while played for the same Herning Blue Fox club Ottawa Senators forward Peter Regin was drafted from. "It's not like we're battling in practice but to see them play, which I couldn't when I was in Denmark, it helps me."
Despite a learning curve, Jensen has been able to turn it on at times. On Oct. 22 at London, when 4-on-4 overtime afforded him the extra sspace he grew up with on European rinks, he started from behind his own goal and cut across the offensive blueline before roofing the game-winner.
"It was almost like a Jean Béliveau or Jean Ratelle kind of goal," recalls Generals coach-GM Chris DePiero. "He's got an uncanny ability to break a game open, He's got an intensity about him that's pretty solid."
In other words, he's one of the more North Americanized imports this side of Kitchener's Swedish captain, Gabriel Landeskög. However, Jensen has that whole duality going on, sharing a billet home with his fellow import, Swiss forward Alain Berger.
"We're both European and we can talk about staying away from the home," he says.
Meantime, as his dad did, he'd love to make a little more Danish hockey history. Jensen helped Denmark go 4-1-0 at last December's IIHF Division I world junior championship in France, losing only to Germany, which qualified for the 2011 WJC. Getting a crack at the main draw, wouldn't that be nice?
1. How would compare being a pro in Denmark at age 16 to playing in the OHL at 17?
"Here, everyone is more skilled and the hockey goes a little faster. The ice surface is so much smaller than what we have at home, so that makes the game even faster, also you're going from playing against men to against your own age, which is pretty cool."
2. Whom in the NHL do you look at and say, 'That's someone I need to be playing like?'
"It's hard to talk about yourself, but I like the way [Columbus Blue Jackets star] Rick Nash plays. He has a big body, he's good at screening the puck and getting to the net. He's a goal scorer. He uses his body well.
"If you can play like him, you're going to get a lot of goals and chances ... he has soft hands and a mindset where he's mean and he likes cutting to the net."
3. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"I should make points and I should score goals. That's what I'm here for. I should just go forward and show my skills and help me team win."
4. What do you consider your proudest hockey achievement?
"Probably just making the Oshawa Generals (laughs). I made best rookie last year for the Danish pro league and there was [winning] MVP for the B pool of the under-18s [last spring] and top scorer there."
5. Favourite TV show or movie?"I like The Simpsons. It's the same in Denmark, it's not translated."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
(Photo: Aaron Bell, OHL Images.)