When looking at the Winnipeg Jets you’d expect the likes of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler or Kyle Connor to be the star. However, this season it’s been their 2014 ninth overall pick, Nikolaj Ehlers. The 2014 draft class is finally paying off, especially for the Jets. The 6 foot 172-pound left-winger is finally coming into his own after a great season last year that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has finally come Jets fans, Nikolaj Ehlers is having an MVP type season.
Nikolaj Ehlers MVP season
Ehlers spent his development years with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL where he by far exceeded expectations. In 114 regular-season games, he put up 205 points. After being drafted, he spent a year in the QMJHL which he then jumped to the NHL. This year, Ehlers regular season was ended by an upper-body injury, they’re hopeful he returns for playoffs. He was on pace for 80 points in 82 games if not for a shortened season.
Style of Play
Whenever Ehlers is on the ice you notice him. Why? Because of his speed. He is one of the best in the NHL at exploding through each zone. He scores most of his goals on the rush, especially two on ones, by joining and getting open on the opposite side of his teammate in prime position to score. Nikolaj Ehlers is excellent at picking up the puck from his own end and transitioning to the other end of the ice. Sometimes, he gets caught trying to deke in the neutral zone which results in turnovers but that’s something that can be easily fixed in an offseason. This is also a guy who has proved not to back down from guys like Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf when the time called for it. So, he does have some feistiness in him when warranted.
Analytically, the Denmark native has been excellent offensively. Although his defensive numbers are average, his offence has severely picked up. He leads the team in G/60, P/60, penalties drawn, low danger xG, xGAR, and xWAR. His defensive metrics are down this year but as a first-line winger, you’d expect high offence, average defence is a nice addition. He’s getting paid to score goals, not play defence. He’s also top 10 in the NHL in xEVO, xGAR, xWAR, and xOFF. Ehlers has easily been the best offensively on the Jets and one of the best in the NHL this season. His style of play is what allows him to be a primary play driver. When you see a big jump in offence there’s a good chance something is going to lack, unless you’re Mark Stone.
In 2017, the Jets young winger signed a seven-year, 42 million dollar contract. The contract has an AAV of six million. Years five to seven of his contract also include a modified no-move clause that would require a 10 team no-trade list. This contract already looks like a steal for the Jets and could continue to look even better if he continues to play like he did this year.
Two years ago, many Jets fans would’ve seen their future based around five players. Those players were Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Ehlers, Connor, and Josh Morrissey. Things have changed quite a bit. Laine was traded in exchange for Pierre-Luc Dubois. On the other hand, Morrissey has had his worst season since being a full-time shutdown defenseman.
Ehlers could be a guy who puts up 70-90 points a year if he plays on the top line for Winnipeg. Playing with an elite all-around player like Mark Scheifele who also has a high hockey IQ would be great for a speedy goal scorer like Ehlers. The winger would also compliment Scheifele who is an agile playmaker who can also score goals. The 25-year-old has tons left to show Jets fans as Ehlers is just entering his prime.