Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Little Things

I'm starting to warm up to the idea of Nikolaj Ehlers being a major contributor for the Winnipeg Jets in the near future. While he has yet to dent the twine in the preseason, coaches are always looking for the little things that players do right in terms of their development - finishing checks, good hustle, and responsible defensive play. Ehlers hasn't let anyone down in those three facets of the game just yet, but Ehlers showed something tonight that hardly anyone saw until the replays were shown and TSN analyst Shane Hnidy pointed it out. Not to pat myself on the back, but I noticed it as well before the replay, and it is becoming evident that Ehlers has learned to play the game of hockey the right way.

Here's the highlight of what Ehlers did tonight that really impressed me. You won't see him actually do anything, though, so we'll discuss below. Here's TJ Galiardi's goal against the Oilers with a major stick-tap to Nikolaj Ehlers.
Again, you didn't see Ehlers on the ice nor was he involved in the play where Will O'Neill threw the long-bomb pass to Galiardi, but Ehlers was instrumental in this goal happening. You see, he was the player on the left wing boards that hustled across the ice to complete the line change that allowed Galiardi to slip in behind the Oilers' defence as he came off the bench! I made mention of it on Twitter, and it was favorited by one person.
The person who has that tweet as a favorite? None other than Nikolaj Ehlers.

This isn't being posted so that I can boast about an NHL player favoriting a tweet that I wrote. It's being posted because Ehlers put his head down, skated hard to the bench, and completed the line change when he could have waited for the play to head up the ice from the Jets' zone. This is a player who made a decision to get fresh legs out on the ice instead of trying to extend his shift while tired, and the result was a breakaway goal for Galiardi. That's the kind of unselfish play that will have the coaches ecstatic because Ehlers swallowed his pride, did his job, and the team was rewarded for it. Ehlers played the unsung hero role on that goal, and he deserves a little recognition for his selfless play.

All I can say is that I'm warming up to Ehlers. He probably won't be on the opening roster, and that's ok. He looks a little slight to be playing a regular shift in the NHL, and I'm not sure a third- or fourth-line role would benefit him in any way. However, the kid has excellent fundamentals, a nose for the net, and, as demonstrated, a selfless team-first attitude. While he may not play in the NHL this season, he'll be here soon.

And if his progression continues, he'll be in the NHL for a long, long time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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