June 18 2014 05:34PM
Name: Nikolaj Ehlers
Position: Left Wing
Junior Team: Halifax (QMJHL)
Rankings: NHL CSS - 13th (NA), ISS - 11th, Justin's List - 7th, Bobby's List - 8th
Not all that much was known about Nikolaj Ehlers prior to this season. Playing nearly his entire junior career in Switzerland, and putting up solid numbers with Denmark's U18 and U20 squads, Ehlers only arrived in North America this year, suiting up for the Halifax of the QMJHL.
Did the Moosehead know what they were getting when they drafted him 6th overall in the 2013 CHL Import Draft? Geeze.
Ehlers took the league by storm, scoring 49 goals and 104 points in only 63 regular season games, good for fourth in league scoring, and another 28 points in 16 playoff appearances. For his efforts, Ehlers earned QMJHL Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Best Professional Prospect honours.
Many see Ehlers as the hands-down best skater in the draft, and he's amongst the most offensively skilled players available as well. An elite offensive threat, Ehlers has great shot and is extremely creative. He’s constantly compared to his teammate and Tampa Bay prospect Jonathan Drouin, though maybe not expected to be quite as good. Drouin is perhaps the best prospect in all of hockey, so that’s not a knock on Ehlers, it’s a compliment.
Ehlers is a small dude, built more like a soccer player than a hockey player. This shouldn't really come as a surprise, as Ehlers played soccer at a national level as a youngster before committing to hockey full time.
Don't get me wrong, there's a bunch of very successful pro hockey players who can barely get on the big kid rides. Height isn't the biggest concern, as Ehler's combine measurements list him as only 162 lbs. There's no doubting his skill, but Ehlers will have to put on significant muscle if he hopes to compete against men.
Is He A Good Choice?
Absolutely. Not even a month ago, there was concern from Ehlers fans that the Leafs would pass on him in favour of a bigger, strong, grittier, meaner, truculentier kid. Now, it's more likely that Ehlers won't even be available at 8. It'll be a close call, but Ehlers is expected to go right around when the Leafs pick.
What Are The Scouts Saying?
"The manner in which Ehlers can explode up ice and accelerate from a stand still is NHL caliber already... changes directions while puck handling, making him extremely difficult to defend in 1 on 1 situations... defensively his speed comes into play, getting into position quickly and deploying good angles to steal pucks..." - McKeen's 2014 NHL Draft Guide
"The big question was how he would handle the durability of playing in the QMJHL and playing more games. But he's proven to be a skilled forward who can work some magic with Jonathan Drouin. He's got that quickness where he can separate from a check and get to the net. He's got soft hands and passes with authority, is a clever playmaker and very unselfish.” - Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting