Geek of the Week: Pretty Fly (For a Nikolaj)

Scott Royce

2021-03-21

Danish-born winger Nikolaj Ehlers was primed to be a hockey player from a young age. He moved to Switzerland at a young age and began playing and fine-tuning his game under his father Heinz. During his time in Switzerland, his team played overseas in the Quebec International Pee-Wee tournament, which was surely a great chance for him to get seen by scouts. He would eventually join EHC Biel, a team in the Swiss National League. His play in Switzerland clearly got him noticed, as he was selected sixth overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2013 CHL Import Draft. 

Ehlers joined the Mooseheads for the 2013-14 season, one year removed from Halifax capturing a Memorial Cup, led by Nathan MacKinnon. While MacKinnon had left for the NHL, the Mooseheads still featured a strong team with the likes of Jonathan Drouin and Timo Meier leading the charge. Ehlers came in and hit the ground running. He showed his offense prowess posting 49 goals and 55 assists for 104 points. The success of his first year in the CHL definitely got him noticed.

In the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Ehlers went ninth overall to the Winnipeg Jets. Before joining his new club, he would play one more season in Halifax. In only 51 games, he would post 101 points, just under a two-point-per-game pace. With aspirations to get back to the Memorial Cup, the team fought their way to the second round of the playoffs. They almost pulled off a massive upset, but eventually fell in seven games to the Moncton Wildcats. Ehlers put up an eye-popping 31 points in just 14 games that postseason.

In the fall of 2015, Ehlers would attend Jets training camp in attempts to make the team. Coming off his second straight year of domination in junior, there was a sense that there wasn't much left for him to accomplish in Halifax. There was the option to send him to their AHL-affiliate Manitoba Moose, but luckily for Ehlers he did enough to stick with the team. In his rookie season, Ehlers looked very average at times, but did show flashes of what he was capable of. Through 72 games, he posted 15 goals and 23 assists. His shooting percentage was only 9% that season, which to this day stands to be the lowest of his career. 

In his sophomore season, Ehlers began to show fans and fantasy hockey owners alike his incredible appeal and potential. He played a full 82-game slate and contributed 25 goals and 39 helpers which would mark the first time he'd break the 60-point plateau in his career. His shooting percentage was up to 12.3%, which happens to be his career average. He shot on average 2.5 shots a game