Scott Arniel can see the skill Nicklas Jensen, the Vancouver Canucks first-round pick, 29th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, possesses.
But the Chicago Wolves head coach, who works first-hand with the Canucks’ top minor league prospects on a daily basis, wants to see such a talented young player like Jensen stick in the NHL as opposed to the odd cup of coffee here and reassignment there.
Jensen, the 20-year-old winger from Herning, Denmark, who is listed on the Canucks’ website at 6’2” tall and 202 pounds, was seen by the media and fans as a probable choice to be recalled to Vancouver, with injuries to forwards Zack Kassian (day-to-day with an ailing back) and David Booth (left ankle).
“I would say every young player, especially at his age, can benefit from being down here and learning what it takes to play every day, practice every day and go through the grind of travel,” said Arniel in a phone interview Monday.
“When he does make that appearance up there, you want to make sure that he’s going to be up there and he’s going to stay up there.
“I would hate to see it where he gets overwhelmed and now… all of the sudden you’re thinking about confidence and you’re wondering as a player, can you play up there, if you go up there and struggle.”
The Canucks recalled centre Jordan Schroeder on Monday, hours before taking on the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Arena.
In seems Jensen wasn’t really in the discussion for this latest call from Vancouver.
“He’s only played a couple of games and his name hasn’t really been brought up just quite yet,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said after the team’s game day skate.
In 22 games with the Canucks this season, Schroeder scored twice and had five points.
He also hadn’t scored in 13 games prior to being reassigned to Chicago on March 11.
“I think the biggest thing is the NHL got better, too,” said Arniel of Schroeder.
“I think what ended up happening, much to his word, is the players are big, they’re strong and you don’t have much room to work up there and you’ve got to do everything very, very quickly.
“I wouldn’t say it’s confidence. He’s a confident kid in his abilities but I think that he just needed (to realize) he has to do everything at a quicker pace.”
Meanwhile, the hockey operations department in Chicago will continue to work with Jensen, developing his game.
Jensen, who had 17 goals and 23 points in 50 games with AIK Stockholm and led all Swedish Elite League rookies in scoring this past season, was only assigned to Chicago on March 8.
In five games with the Wolves, he has two goals – both on the power play – and is a minus-two.
“Obviously you can see his talent,” said Arniel.
“I think there’s been a little bit of an adjustment for him…coming over to the small rinks again. I know he has played here before but having a whole year in Europe and the pace and the physicality in this league, I think it’s been an adjustment.”
Prior to his time in Sweden, Jensen played two seasons for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League.
Perhaps most interesting about all the Jensen speculation is the fact the Canucks are in a swoon.
In addition to numerous injuries – second-line centre Ryan Kesler is also out with a broken bone in his foot – the Canucks have five wins in their last 15 games heading into Monday’s showdown with the Wild for top spot in the Northwest Division.
The team’s recent struggles have created angst amongst the local fan base, as critics have been lighting up the phone boards of radio call-in shows, offering their opinions and concerns.
It hardly seems like an ideal situation to place a promising prospect with no NHL experience in to.
“Whatever that player is, you’ve got to make sure he’s in his element, that he’s going to have the best chance to succeed,” said Arniel.
“Because if they do stumble and fall back, now you’ve got to rebuild and start over again, so you want to make sure it’s the right situation.”