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What is going on with Nikolaj Ehlers?

No stats, only vibes.

Seattle Kraken v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

Nikolaj Ehlers is not playing as much as the Winnipeg Jets best forward should be. The player who has consistently helped generate offence for the Jets is not one of the most used forwards for the Jets and it is a major problem as they are dealing with a scoring slump. The issue is not Ehlers, but an issue that has permeated the Jets for a long time prior to this latest ice time issue: there is an inability to try offensive players in new situations or overlook mistakes of certain players over others.

This comes back to Patrik Laine. Most thing do in my head. This is not about Laine vs. Kyle Connor nor is it about the fact that Laine getting traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets might not have been the best move for his career. He was right to demand a trade because of how the Jets have operated for years. Teams should allow for growth in players and challenge players instead of sticking them in a box and keeping them there. Laine was put in this box and asked, nay demanded out, but is Ehlers also stuck in a box?

When Ehlers played for the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, he was a regular on the penalty kill and turned it into a power kill most nights. He was exceptional at creating offence on the penalty kill which makes sense when you watch him carry the puck through the neutral zone five on five for the Jets. The fact he has never been given a long look on the penalty kill when he is better defensively than a player like Kyle Connor, who was put in the box of a two way player as a rookie and stayed in it even though he is not good defensively, is questionable on the coaching staff’s part.

That is what this all comes down to: the coaching staff projects an idea onto a player and then fits them into that box instead of letting the player show them who they are. There is nothing wrong with Connor not being great defensively. The dude scores more than enough goals to make up for his blunders. Scoring goals is a talent unto itself and he deserves all the credit in the world for that skill. But he does not have to be on the penalty kill if he is not good defensively. He has other uses and should be put in a prime scoring position and there are other players who can play that role.

What is wrong with Nikolaj Ehlers? Probably nothing outside of usage. Ehlers has been an elite player for the Jets for years and he had not fallen off at all even after his long injury layoff. The Jets claim they cannot get him onto the first power play unit. They have not tried him on the penalty kill. There are ways of getting Ehlers more ice time, but they require the Jets to look outside of the box that they put him in and do something about it. Alas, instead they say they will do something about it but don’t. This is why we can’t have nice things.