TLN Draft Profile: Nikolaj Ehlers

Name: Nikolaj Ehlers

Position: Left Wing

Height: 5’10

Weight: 176lbs

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.

The Good

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.

The Bad

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

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  • I love this guy, and according to Simmons, so do the Leafs.

    What’s impressive is that his numbers are just as good when he was playing without Drouin as they were with him.

    If he’s available at 8 and the Leafs pass, I’m going to cry.

      • FlareKnight

        If they pick Ritchie while guys like Ehlers or Nylander are still on the board, it will scream of the same mentality that led to Biggs pick even if Ritchie as an individual is likely better than Biggs (as is reflected in their respective draft projections).

        • Maybe if Nick Ritchie and Tyler Biggs played similar games, you’d be on to something.

          Ritchie plays a skill game, and he also happens to be a big guy. He certainly uses his size to his advantage, but pull up a highlight pack online and tell me how many of his goals he scored by running people over or banging away at the front of the net. Not many… There’s a lot of goals of him using his speed on the outside, or by maneuvering into the slot and letting off a good shot.

          To be honest, I have Ritchie at number 8 on my list. I have Nylander at 6 and Ehlers at 7. I’d also prefer the Leafs draft either of those players. But the Tyler Biggs comparisons are alarmist and lazy, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Leafs preferring Ritchie to Nylander or Ehlers at number eight. Ritchie is far from a reach at that slot.

      • When you have (potentially) guys like Ehlers, Nylander, and even Fleury and Perlini on the board – Ritchie will scream Tyler Biggs selection.

        I’m not saying Ritchie will be the same player but rather the same poor selection in comparison.

        I’m wrong? I hope for our sake I am IF the Leafs select him.

        Ehlers reminds me of St. Louis – small guy that makes creative plays while avoiding being crushed.

        Ritchie could be a Backes, Benn, or Simmonds…but very well could be a Brian Boyle. It is easy to look good when you can easily out muscle players in junior.

  • FlareKnight

    Ehlers is another guy I’d have no complaints if we picked up at 8. A ton of skill there and that’s rarely a bad direction to go with this high in the draft. Speed and creativity is a good thing to add to the lineup.

    Just a question really if he’ll be there. A few teams above could really love that skillset. But if he is gone just means other really good options will still be there.