All Nicklas Jensen wanted was to get playing in the Canucks Young Stars Classic.
The eagerness of the Vancouver Canucks’ first round pick, 29th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, paid dividends as he scored a goal late in the second period against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday evening in the South Okanagan Events Centre. His goal on a feed from Ludwig Blomstrand gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead, on the way to a 3-2 win. The two weeks leading up to the Classic was a restless time for the young Dane.
“I’m excited to be here with all the guys and get the first game going,” said Jensen, 20, prior to the opening game.
With Canucks management and coaches saying they want to get younger for 2013-14, Jensen wants to be the guy making the team.
“I have been having a good summer, working hard,” said Jensen.
A decision he made last season may give him an advantage over other forwards. Instead of returning to the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League for a third season, Jensen signed on with AIK in the Swedish Elite League and in 50 games scored 17 goals along with six assists. Jensen, who played two games with the Canucks last season, said it was a good season for him that allowed him to learn a lot.
“I was playing with professionals and growing up,” he said. “Living the life of a professional. The hockey was a good pace. Really good hockey. I think it was a good choice for me.”
While he registered a minus-12 in Sweden, he feels he improved all facets of his skills.
“Even now I still try to just improve everything in my game,” he said.
Jensen feels prepared after having spent the last month in Toronto working on his fitness.
“You have to show that you want to be the best,” he said. “Work the hardest you can and not relax. Be that guy they want to have up.”
In the meantime, he’s going to make an impression in a city that left an impression on him two years ago.
“It’s amazing here,” said Jensen of Penticton. “Even though it was raining, it’s a beautiful city.”