The Winnipeg Jets 2014 first round draft pick's rookie season is in the books. Nikolaj Ehlers came in to his rookie season with the Jets with lots of hype surrounding him. The 20 year old was coming off two consecutive 100+ point seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL and proved he was too good for junior hockey in the process. Heading in to camp, the question was if he was ready for the NHL game. It's hard to tell how an undersized skilled 19 year old will fare in his rookie season. All things considered, he adjusted to the pro game quite well. Sure, there were bumps in the road that lead to drops in production, but that's to be expected for a rookie player. Ehlers was used in various capacities throughout the Jets top three lines. While at his best, he formed the Jets new first line alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Other times, he found himself on the third line alongside players like Chris Thorburn and Adam Lowry, having to produce offence for himself and play a different kind of game. Consistency is something that plagued Ehlers throughout his rookie campaign. While he has some great tools that make him a really exciting player, getting them to coincide at once and on a consistent basis is something that Ehlers had to learn during the course of his first NHL season.
" He's got all of the skills, speed shot and hockey sense," Thorburn told nhl.com in December while Ehlers was slumping. " It's just a matter of him putting it all together consistently, which he has done for the majority of the season. He's growing. As he gets older, the more experience he gets, the more dangerous he is going to be."
Thorburn basically nailed it on the head back in December in the midst of Ehlers' slump. Thorburn talked about Ehlers getting his game at a more consistent level and implementing his skills at a more consistent pace. As you can see from his month by month break down stats, Ehlers notched pretty impressive numbers during some months. Other months such as November and December he was invisible and slumped miserably. Ehlers combined for 4 points in 26 games through the months of November and December. This came after getting off to a great start scoring 8 points in his first 11 games at the NHL level. Ehlers production picked up in the second half of the year and had carried on consistently until the seasons end.
He exemplified great chemistry with two of the Jets top forwards, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. The trio combined to produce an exciting first line that looks to stay in tact when next season rolls around.
Ehlers missed some time this year after sustaining an eye injury later in the season. In 72 games this season he finished the year 9th in the league in rookie scoring with 38 points and the 10th best point per game pace out of al rookies with 0.53 points per game.
Ehlers has two more years on his entry level contract and then he'll become an RFA. Ehlers isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future and the Jets won't have to worry about that for a little while. It's going to be exciting to see how Ehlers will make an impact when he suits up for his second year with the Jets. We could see a really big jump in production from Ehlers next season if he continues to skate alongside Wheeler and Scheifele and continues where he left off. Ehlers is an integral part to this next wave of Jets that are slowly being integrated in to the regular lineup. Ehlers is arguably the most exciting draft pick the Jets have had to date. That's not to discredit the Jets other talent they've drafted. Ehlers has a certain "wow" factor to his game that is hard to find. It'll be interesting to watch what the speedy and crafty winger can bring to the Jets lineup for years to come.