Comets Tales: Being One - Nicklas Jensen
by Don LaibleNov 11, 2014
There wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary about Nicklas Jensen’s performance on November 5. During a mid-week match at The AUD with the Binghamton Senators, Jensen proved to be a difference maker for his team.
At 13:41 in the game’s first period, he slipped the puck past Binghamton’s netminder Andrew Hammond. Jensen notched his fourth goal on the early American Hockey League season. This would be all the scoring the game would see on the evening, as Comets’ Jacob Markstrom collected his fourth shutout on the season.
With a half dozen points in his pocket, a practice session the following day after thumping the B-Sens with his Comets teammates, Jensen would receive new skating orders. Word came down from Utica’s parent club, the Vancouver Canucks, that his services were needed at the ultimate level once again.
On Friday November 7, by dawn, Jensen would begin his travel west. California was where the 21-year-old Dane had his ticket punched to. With Friday scheduled as an off-day for the Canucks, it was a game against the Kings who Jensen needed to focus on.
Playing in the National Hockey League, against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Canucks’ 2011 number one selection in the entry draft (29th overall) put his Comets thoughts on hold. As Saturday’s match with the Kings concluded, nowhere in the boxscore does Jensen’s name appear. In the 5-1 Los Angeles victory, Jensen was a healthy scratch. Not uncommon for a player called-up, even for a One.
Playing in what would be his 20th NHL contest, all with the Canucks, would have to wait. However, remaining mentally focused for what is directed to him by coach Willie Desjarsdin shouldn’t be new to Jensen.
Successful habits are constant for Jensen. It’s a given before any Comets home game where you could find him. In gazing up at the scoreboard, at the 16 minute mark, both home and away teams hit the ice for pre-game warm-ups. Like clock work, seven to eight minutes before the horn sounds, and the door is open and players flood the rink, Jensen has arrived. Anxious to hit the ice.
Minus a goalie, Jensen is long prepared to lead his fellow Comets onto the ice. There are children lined up to his left and right, ready to give fist bumps to their Utica favorites. And in the middle of the corridor Jensen is bent at the knees delivering a long, cold stare into the empty AUD rink. He speaks with no one and doesn’t break his stature-like position. Two minutes would go by before Jensen would have a teammate keeping him company. Hunter Shinkaruk is the first to join Nicklas, with a welcoming slap of his stick to his shin guards.
“It keeps me a little loose,”says Jensen of his routinely early arrival for warm-ups. “I stay focused in the hall. My mind is set on the game.”
As the pre-game warm-up session winds down, and he has the field figured out, Jensen is among the last Comets to exit. Being on ice is where Jensen wants to be. As a top draft pick, Jensen is potentially a franchise-defining talent. Certain expectations of the player come with the pick.
“Sure there is pressure. I just try to be the best that I can on the ice. It’s all good. Pressure motivates me,”Jensen tells.
There is a hunger to remain in Vancouver. There have been two previous call-ups to the big club for Jensen. 17 games last season, and two during the 2012-13 campaign allowed Jensen to sit at the NHL table for a little while. During this past pre-season schedule, Jensen recorded four points, had 12 shots on goal, in six games for the Canucks. As the headline in The Vancouver Sun directs on October 6, Jensen was “Dispatched to Utica”. The training continues for full-time work with the Canucks.
“I just want to help my team in the rink. You can’t think about what position in the draft you were. Showing them (Vancouver) what I can do now and in the future is what is on my mind,” explains Jensen.
Canucks’ Vice President/Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman shortly after the 2011 draft described Jensen as – “A player high in character and work ethic.”
Held in St. Paul, Minnesota, the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has produced an exemplary class of young guns. Among the top selections were Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jonathan Huberdeau. It was TO the surprise of few that Jensen would join in being a One in the draft. There is a track record of being in demand.
A season prior to being officially on the Canucks radar, Jensen was the eighth overall selection of the CHL Import Draft. The Oshawa Generals welcomed him to their club. Promptly, on his march to being officially a One, Jensen was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie team in his first season in juniors.
Having duel citizenship (Canadian and Danish), Jensen began demonstrating his love for hockey at an early age growing up in Denmark. Nicklas’ father Dan Jensen, originally from the Toronto area, moved to Denmark after his skating days in the Ontario Hockey League. It was when playing for the Herning (Denmark) Blue Fox that Dan met his future wife.
Herning, with a population less than 50,000, besides Jensen, has produced three other NHL players – Frans Nielsen, Peter Regin, and Frederik Andersen.
Young in age, Jensen displays maturity far beyond his years. When reflecting on his draft position, he is both both mindful of organizational expectations and realistic.
“Every draft is special. You get new, young guys stepping up for their teams. What matters most if I help the team. Showing up and proving what I can do is what matters.”
For now, and in all probability, not the last time between his current visit with the Canucks and the coming spring, Nicklas Jensen’s #17 Comets jersey remains folded in storage. Team equipment guardians Damion Parmelee and Taylor Anderson have it at the ready, one reassignment at a time.