The Jets are slowly separating themselves from the Patrik Laine trade rumours and speculation.
Now that Laine has officially moved on, people are starting to notice (as I pointed out after the loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 18th) that the Jets are a pretty good team without him anyway.
Since Laine’s OT-winner against the Flames on January 14th in Calgary, Laine has yet to play another game. Also, as of that moment, the Jets have a 4-2 record… again, without Laine. One player, in particular, has benefitted from being out of Laine’s enormous shadow more than any other.
Nikolaj Ehlers, a former Halifax Moosehead in the QMJHL, is used to being a very good player under the shadow of someone else. During his time in Halifax, he played alongside Jonathan Drouin who took all the media attention.
During the 2013-14 QMJHL season, Drouin earned 29 goals and 79 assists, leading the team with 108 points in only 46 games played. Danish superstar and CHL rookie, Nikolaj Ehlers, meanwhile, managed 49 markers and 55 helpers for a total of 104 points in 63 games played.
It has got to be frustrating as all get-out to be such a great player and always be second fiddle. Now, with the media-attention-void Laine’s absence has created, Ehlers has a chance to shine. Not only has he done so, but he has done so in a personal-best fashion.
Currently, the kid from Aalborg, Denmark is sporting a career-best 5-game scoring streak and he leads all Jets’ skaters with 11 points (5G, 6A), which is also good enough to sit him 3rd in the entire league behind Mitch Marner and Connor McDavid.
There are a number of players on the Jets’ roster that could easily step into Laine’s former media spotlight. Kyle Connor, for instance, finished last season tied with Mark Scheifele for the top point man in town with 73 each.
For that matter, Scheifele and his seemingly permanent line-mate, Captain Blake Wheeler, also get a lot of camera time here in Winnipeg due to their leadership roles and experience. Well, that and all the points they rack up together. Despite that, those two workhorses are never going to overshadow the up-and-coming younger talents on the squad.
All this is to say that Ehlers is poised to have a great season, especially if he stays out of his own head.
Coach Paul Maurice can help keep Ehlers productive by leaving him on a line with Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny. He appears to be able to play a more wide-open game while playing with those two. I thought that trio had a ton of chemistry tonight (combining for 10 points), so it will be interesting to see if Mr. Maurice and company agree, and if so, how that works out long-term.
Either way, it seems that Ehlers is thriving since Laine’s departure from the lineup and there is no limit to the growth we might see this year from the former Moosehead.
GO JETS GO!