International Ice Hockey Federation

Danish forward ignites offence

Danish forward ignites offence

Ehlers excels on world stage

Published 15.05.2017 15:51 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Danish forward ignites offence
Danish forward Nikolaj Ehlers (right) and goaltender Sebastian Dahm are all smiles after an overtime win against Germany. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
While Denmark won't crack the top eight at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Nikolaj Ehlers has been fun to watch.

At 21 years of age, Nikolaj Ehlers is establishing himself as one of the best players produced by the Danish hockey system. He was drafted 9th overall by the Winnipeg Jets, made the team as a 19-year-old and in his second season has already proven himself as one of the pivotal point producers on a Jets team loaded with talented forwards including Finnish forward Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele, who represents Canada at the Worlds.

Simply put, Nikolaj Ehlers is just that good.

In his senior national team debut 2016 in St. Petersburg, Ehlers dazzled, scoring four goals and six points as Denmark finished eighth. His ability on the ice is unlike any other player Denmark has showcased at this tournament for over a decade. His moves are fluid, almost effortless. He plays well with the puck but instinctually knows where to be on the ice, and where his teammates are at any moment. 

Through six games, Ehlers has only added to his impressive international resume. Although, Denmark has only won two games, Ehlers has shown the ability to generate offence and, in many ways, catalyze the team just when they need it most.

Ehlers has not scored a goal but set up four others. And at +2, he is only one of three plus players on the team that’s given up 22 goals and whose goal difference is -11.

To understand Ehlers impact on Denmark you need look no further that last night’s game against Sweden. Down 3-0 in the third period, Ehlers set up two goals in six minutes. He did this by carrying the puck and drawing defenders and finding his teammates in perfect position to score.

“He really stepped up his game against Sweden,” said teammate Oliver Lauridsen. “He matched and outmatched their speed and took it to them and that is what he does best, holding onto the puck and making plays. That is why he is playing where he is right now. He is so good at that.” 

Denmark would go on to lose 4-2 but Ehlers earned honours as best player of the game with the prize being handed to him by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

And even though Ehlers has not scored a goal, he shares the team lead in shots on goal with Frederik Storm. They have 15 each. 

The success of Ehlers, an Aalborg native, says a lot about Denmark’s ability to develop players. Although he honed his elite level skills playing junior hockey in Switzerland and Canada, he has been part of the country's national team program since the age of 16.

Who knows what the future holds. Next year as Denmark hosts the World Championships it would be a crowning moment to present one of their best players in front of a local crowd. But who knows if Ehlers will make it. Maybe Winnipeg will be in the playoffs. There are potential injuries to consider. Or just general fatigue. Time will tell. 

For now, everyone can savour his skillset and realize that teams outside of the top-six hockey nations, like Denmark, are producing quality skaters who elevate their countries compete level at tournaments like the World Championship.


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