Nikolaj Ehlers went through a lot on the ice this past season. He had a goal drought. He had to play with Drew Stafford or Andrew Copp or both. Honestly, the line combinations all started to blur together at some point. However, Ehlers had a delightful season full of slick moves and slicker passes and goals. Even when struggling to score, Ehlers was able to show his potential as a player.
As a second year player Ehlers was able to build upon the skills he showed as a rookie. His shot is clearly a weapon that he uses, as is his passing ability. Maybe his greatest ability though is his ability to maneuver through players like there are not there. This aids him in both zone entries and exits. Ehlers is also a gutsy player in the sense that he will try something that might backfire because the reward is there.
As you can see, Ehlers started the season off on fire possession wise and then went into a tailspin. This aligns with Scheifele’s season as well, so it is probable that the Jets as a whole had a December collapse that helped lead to the struggling goaltending and lack of wins. However, it is evident that after such a strong start to the season Ehlers petered off with only spurts of the shot driving ability that he had shown earlier in the season.
All of that said about Ehlers, he is a 20 year old playing on a team that does not feature solid blueline depth and has a coach who made questionable lineup decisions all season. It is entirely possible that playing with Laine earlier in the year or Copp at any point helped drive down Ehlers’ numbers. Ehlers is a very good player and he does do a lot of things that drive possession. Even if he does not become a consistently strong possession player, his game is strong enough in other areas to more than make up for it.
Aside from Ehlers odd season possession-wise, the multi-lingual Dane showed himself to be a key to the Jets in many areas. His slick passing makes him a great option on the powerplay, while his shooting ability means he will never only have one option when defencemen are marking him. His slick puck-handling ability means he is able to turn something out of nothing, a major plus for any team
Is Ehlers going to develop into the player he seems to be turning into? Is he going to remain better than Jake Virtanen forever? Only time will tell.