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Kats Krunch: Great Danes – Nikolaj Ehlers & Oliver Bjorkstrand

Denmark sent a representative team to Toronto to compete in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships devoid of the star power and name recognition of some of the higher echelon teams.

There’s no Connor McDavid or jack Eichel’s for the draft eligible crowd to fawn over, and missing are a Sonny Milano, William Nylander or Sam Reinhart, drafted players that carry a high pedigree amongst their peers.

Six Danish players adorn CHL team silks in 2014-15, including two great Danes differentiated from the lunch-bucket crew, and the only players drafted by an NHL team.

Some notable players on the Denmark team include Nick Olesen, recognizable by the ‘flow’ and Seattle Thunderbirds pivot, Alexander True a draft eligible player in 2015. Another notable was defenseman Mads Larsen

The Winnipeg Jets are blessed with a plethora of drafted representation in this tournament, none better than the 2014 (9th overall) pick from the Halifax Mooseheads, Nikolai Ehlers. Partnered with linemate Oliver Bjorkstrand, the 2013 3rd pick by Columbus (89th overall) were the offensive catalysts for the Danes, having a hand in three of the country’s six goals scored in the preliminary round.

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW (Winnipeg), 2014

ehlers, Nik Halifax Electrifying with the puck whether it was from a long range rush, or quick bursts in the offensive zone, Jets pick in 2014 was the most dangerous Danish forward all tournament .. pushed back defenders with speed – although guilty of outside lanes and cutting to the goal .. capable of quick and efficient zone entries precipitated by speed through the neutral zone .. in the offensive zone, coupled change of pace with explosive first two-step acceleration in one-on-one situations, isolating a single defenseman to maneuver around .. elusive and tricky along the boards, using quick directional shifts with his feet, or toe drags and pull backs by lightning quick hands .. drove to the net with the puck .. could be forgiven for overhandling the puck at times with limited options without Bjorkstrand on the ice .. likely the fastest player on the sheet for any team he played against .. partnered marvelously with Bjorkstrand in the offensive zone, winning puck battles in tandem and setting each other up for shots on goal .. fired the puck much less versus Sweden, partly a reflection of the 5-1 romp in score, and retaining the puck instead of shooting in reasonable areas – similar to the final game versus the CzechRepublic .. if there’s one reason to be excited in Winnipeg, the Danish speedster is a bright starting point in their youth movement.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW (Columbus) 2013 

bjorkstrand action portland (2) Blue Jackets 1st rounder featured upgrades in skating and balance from his draft year, complimenting a high tempo offensive game featuring a sizzling wrist shot, where he fired from various locations – and close into his body .. more dangerous against Russia than Sweden, where he seemed to adopt a more stationary stance in a support role instead of attacking scrums and hunting for pucks (unclear if this was inherent or a coaching tweak) .. main shooter, lined up on the left side as a shooter on the PP looking for the one-timer set up .. was also the trigger man at even strength, often looked upon for teeing up feeds from linemate Ehlers .. scored tournament opening goal from this spot after a face off win .. dangerous with the puck versus Russia, determined to win every battle along the boards and in open space .. was more focused at attacking from an angle on rushes, forcing defenseman to pivot or make a directional change or shift in footing, less so versus Sweden, where he seemed to drive into the attack head on and through defesnemen .. hard wrist shot from a short wind up, exhibited periodically in the opening game .. fired the puck less, resolved on keeping it for better positioning or an opening, whereas he fired from prime real estate versus Russia .. similar to linemate Ehlers, where they created a lot of Denmark’s offense as a tandem, most of the prettiest efforts never ended up in the net .. lots to be excited about for Blue Jackets fans with this bargain 3rd round pick.


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