After spending this past season playing with AIK in the Swedish Elite League, where he amassed 17 goals in 50 games to lead all rookies, the Canucks 2011 first-round draft pick has joined the Canucks American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. Canucks.com caught up with Jensen via telephone to talk about his time in Sweden and much, much more.
Canucks.com: Welcome back to North America, Nicklas. Going into the season, did you expect to score as many goals as you did in the Swedish Elite League?
Jensen: “The Swedish Elite League is a really good league. Coming in as a young guy it’s hard to know what to expect, but after playing in a few games I definitely knew I could play in that league. I tried to be the best player every time I stepped onto the ice. My type of game is to produce goals and that’s what I did. I was happy with how it went and how everything ended up.”
CDC: Looking back on it now, do you have any regrets on going to Sweden instead of returning to Oshawa in the OHL?
J: “Not at all. I am pretty happy with what I got out of Sweden. I got to learn how to play with pros and play against men. It really helped me out on-and-off the ice to learn how to be more professional. I think it was the right choice, I had a pretty good year, everything went very well and now I get the chance to play a longer time here with the Wolves.”
CDC: Off the ice, how was your experience in Sweden?
J: “It was great! I had a nice apartment in Stockholm, pretty much right beside the rink and only 10 minutes to downtown. It was a beautiful city, I really liked it there. My girlfriend got to come visit me a lot because Denmark is so close and during Christmas time we had a few days off and with it being only a 45-minute flight back home (Denmark), I got to go home during Christmas, which was nice.”
CDC: You have played in both the SEL and AHL, how does the talent level compare in the two leagues?
J: “It’s so hard to compare which league is better or if a league is better, it’s a different style and a totally different game in my opinion. In Sweden, it’s the big ice to start with and they really like to keep the puck and not dump-and-chase as much. Over here it’s more straight ahead and crash the net, which they also do in Sweden but it’s different with the big ice, there is so much more room and that’s why there is not as much hitting there compared to in North America.”
CDC: Speaking of ice size, has it been a bit of an adjustment to come back to the smaller ice after being away from it for almost a year?
J: “I think I got it now, it took a few games. I played two years of junior on the smaller ice so it’s not entirely new to me. I like the small ice, your closer to the net, everything goes a little bit faster and there is a lot more going on.”
CDC: You’re back in Chicago now, what do you hope to get out of your time in the AHL?
J: “We want to start winning again; we have been having not the greatest last week here. I want to help the team win the game every time I step onto the ice and when I’m playing at the level I am capable of playing at I want to score goals and produce offense, that’s what I’m here for.”
CDC: Is there a part of your game you would like to work on improving during your time with the Wolves?
J: “I want to work on my defensive side of the game, in my own zone. Its definitely one of the things I try and focus on, especially if I want to make it to Vancouver. I try to work on everything, my technique, my skating and my speed just to get better as a hockey player, but I am focusing more on my defensive game right now.”
CDC: If you got the call right now that said you were being called-up to the Canucks, do you think you’re ready for the chance?
J: “If I got the chance to get called up I would take it right away and do my best to help the team. I feel I would be ready for it, but I still need to prove it down here and play good every night. Right now I am not thinking about it that much, I am trying to just take it one day at a time and be the best I can be when I step onto the ice with the Wolves.”
CDC: What would you say is your biggest strength on the ice?
J: “Around the net, in the offensive zone when I have the puck and my shooting ability. On the power-play I crash the net and play around the net and try to get rebounds. Scoring goals and getting chances from the corners as well.”
CDC: You are wearing #36 for the Wolves, any significance as to why you picked that number?
J: “I actually didn’t pick it! Training camps and stuff with the Canucks I was #46 and I don’t know if they wanted to make it a thing with the Danish guys as Jannik Hansen wears #36 with the Canucks, if that’s what they are doing it's pretty funny.”
CDC: Speaking of Jannik Hansen, how well do you know your fellow countryman?
J: “I have only met him the one time at main camp before last season. When I was little kid he was at a hockey school in my home town, he came to visit and coach, and he would tell us how he was doing in Vancouver, it’s pretty funny. I don’t know him very well, just what I hear about him and how he is a great guy and that’s the impression I got when I met him at camp.”
CDC: Thanks a lot for taking the time to chat with us Nicklas, good luck the rest of the way!
J: “No problem, any time.”