Winnipeg Jets

Looking to make the leap: Nikolaj Ehlers

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After averaging nearly two points per-game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers is hoping to make the leap to the NHL this season.

The 5-foot-11, 176-pound forward scored 37 goals and 101 points in 51 games with the Halifax Mooseheads last season. He added 10 goals and 21 assists in 14 playoff games prior to being called up by the Winnipeg Jets in April.

Ehlers also represented Denmark at the world juniors scoring a goal and three assists in five games.

“I feel like over the last year in Halifax, I really improved on some details on and off the ice. I think I’m going to come (to training camp) as a better player and bigger,” Ehlers said at the Jets’ prospects camp in July. “I want to make the team this year and obviously I’ve got to work hard for that.”

The 19-year-old is also realistic of his chances of playing for the Jets next season.

“It’s going to be tough coming back here and trying to get that one spot on the team,” he said. “But there’s lot of excitement and I think that on the ice there’s a lot of things that I can improve on.”

If he doesn’t crack the Jets’ opening night roster, he would have to be returned to junior because he is not old enough to play in the American Hockey League.

However, Ehlers could have a second option, if he is unable to make the leap to the NHL this season.

The Jets’ 2014 first-round pick told news agency Sportinformation last week that he’s considering spending the 2015-16 season in Europe.

“I honestly do not think about this now,” he said. “But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I’m not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”

After recording 205 points in 114 QMJHL games over two seasons, returning Ehlers to junior doesn’t seem like the best move for his development. The Dane will certainly be one to watch at next month’s camp in Winnipeg.

It’s Winnipeg Jets day at PHT

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Using the term “close sweep” might start a brawl at the wrong Winnipeg bar, yet it feels like a reasonable depiction of the Jets’ first-round exit.

Whether you agree or disagree about their margin of defeat against the Anaheim Ducks, the bottom line is that if you trace the Jets’ history back to the Thrashers era, the franchise remains at zero playoff wins all-time.

Yes, as in they haven’t ever won a playoff game not a series.

Despite that doom and gloom, Jets were a popular dark horse candidate heading into the 2015 postseason for a reason. They were an impressive possession team by most metrics.

Winnipeg combined an increasingly deep defense corps with its underrated high-end forwards to scare at least a few Western Conference observers. Hey, they even occasionally received competent goaltending, albeit from an uneven mix of Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

(There was some poetic justice in Pavelec playing out of his mind down the stretch to get them into the playoffs.)

It all feels empty thanks to the sweep, but the Jets zoomed up a level or two in 2014-15. As wild card berths go, Winnipeg can point to some positives.

Off-season recap

The biggest change technically happened during the season, yet the Evander Kane swap is significant enough to at least get a quick mention.

It’s relevant enough to the summer anyway, as Drew Stafford played well enough to gain a two-year deal that carries a $4.35 million cap hit. Stafford is sticking around, while a surprise return is in store for Alex Burmistrov, who went on a two-year KHL sojourn.

Michael Frolik headlines a group of departing players who helped move the needle a bit depth-wise, also including Lee Stempniak, Jiri Tlusty and T.J. Galiardi.

Maybe the most significant off-season storyline is what Winnipeg did not do: Dustin Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd are currently entering the final season of their respective contracts.

Report: Prospect Ehlers mulling Swiss league if he doesn’t make Jets

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Nikolaj Ehlers will be one to watch at Winnipeg’s training camp this fall.

Ehlers, the Jets’ first-round pick (ninth overall) at the 2014 draft, is reportedly open to playing in the Swiss league should he not make the Jets roster out of the preseason, per news agency Sportinformation.

More (courtesy Swiss Hockey News):

“I honestly do not think about this now,” the 19-year-old Dane says to the Sportinformation. “But Switzerland is at the top of my list if I’m not going to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.”

As Ehlers is still too young for the AHL and another year in the QMJHL would not make any sense for him, playing in Europe would be the best solution.

Ehlers is coming off a dominant Quebec League campaign — 101 points in just 51 games — but isn’t big (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and will be in tough to crack a Jets team with good depth up front. While the forwards Michael Frolik, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty are all gone, Alex Burmistrov is back from Russia and some other youngsters, along with Ehlers, will push for just a handful of spots.

“It’s going to be tough coming back here and trying to get that spot on the team,” Ehlers told NHL.com this summer, during Winnipeg’s prospects camp. “There is a lot of excitement, and I think that on the ice there are a lot of things I can improve on, and I’m going to try to do that this summer.”

It makes sense that Ehlers would target Switzerland in the event he doesn’t make the Jets. Aside from having little to prove at the junior level, he has experience playing in the Swiss National League A — during the ’12-13 campaign, he appeared in 11 games for HC Biel.

PHT Morning Skate: Seguin says it was ‘real tough’ to ‘keep my mouth shut’ after Boston trade

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

“I think the real tough thing was being able to keep my mouth shut. That was real difficult after the trade happened, seeing all the things that were going on.” That’s Tyler Seguin, talking about the days following his blockbuster move out of Boston two years ago. He said watching Behind the B was especially rough. (TSN 1050)

Remember ex-NHLer Chris Kontos? Well, someone tried to steal his Olympic silver medal, won while representing Canada at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer. (CTV)

Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya gave the ‘Hawks some international flair by bringing the Stanley Cup to Sweden. Of course, the former is still without a contract… and the latter now plays for Dallas. (ESPN)

Jets captain Andrew Ladd is back skating after offseason sports hernia surgery. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Coyotes prospect Max Domi speaks about playing hockey with diabetes. (Howlin’ Hockey)

McDavid, Eichel headline NHLPA Rookie Showcase

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This year’s NHLPA Rookie Showcase won’t be lacking star power.

The top two picks at this year’s entry draft — Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel — will be in attendance, along with 38 other prospects that’ll descend upon Toronto on Tuesday, Sept. 1 for photo ops and media availability.

The list of invitees, per the players’ union:

Connor McDavid (Oilers), Jack Eichel (Sabres), Dylan Strome (Coyotes), Mitch Marner (Maple Leafs), Noah Hanifin (Hurricanes), Ivan Barbashev (Blues), Chris Bigras (Avalanche), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Blue Jackets), Madison Bowey (Capitals), Connor Brown (Maple Leafs), Michael Dal Colle (Islanders), Nikolaj Ehlers (Jets), Robby Fabbri (Blues), Zach Fucale (Canadiens), Nikolay Goldobin (Sharks), Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks), Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Julius Honka (Stars), Kasperi Kapanen (Maple Leafs), Ronalds Kenins (Canucks), Slater Koekkoek (Lightning), Dylan Larkin (Red Wings), Sonny Milano (Blue Jackets), Samuel Morin (Flyers), Mike Matheson (Panthers), Michael McCarron (Canadiens), Josh Morrissey (Jets), Brendan Perlini (Coyotes), Nic Petan (Jets), Emile Poirier (Flames), Shane Prince (Senators), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), John Quenneville (Devils), Mike Reilly (Wild), Nick Ritchie (Ducks), Travis Sanheim (Flyers), Mackenzie Skapski (Rangers), Brady Skjei (Rangers), Shea Theodore (Ducks) and Jake Virtanen (Canucks).

This will mark the seventh year the PA has gathered rookies for its annual event. Last year’s Rookie Showcase featured 33 players, including Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad and fellow finalist Johnny Gaudreau.