While the 2016-17 NHL season for the Detroit Red Wings is now as much focused on the upcoming draft as it is on the season itself, the year has not been without signs of promise. One of those signs has been the gradual improvement of rookie defenseman Nick Jensen.
Building on a Slow Start
After a slow start to his rookie year, Jensen doubled his season goal output in February, scoring twice to bring his points total to eight, and boost his plus/minus rating to a 2 on the year. He has consistently skated close to 20-minutes per game, as Red Wing’s head coach Jeff Blashill confidence grows in the 26-year-old rookie.
Blashill’s confidence in Jensen’s potential scoring ability from the defensive line has grown steadily. Jensen has 38 shots on goal during his rookie campaign, but eight of those have been fired in the last five games, one a game opening goal in the Wing’s 5-2 upset victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In the last three Detroit games, Jensen has taken a half-dozen shots, while playing stellar defense that helped the Wings win one overtime game, and lose the other two by a single goal; all of them on the road. Jensen and the rest of the young Red Wing skaters have shown steady improvement, building the hope of the Detroit hockey faithful that a return to NHL prominence is on the immediate horizon.
A Cornerstone for the Future
Jensen has 38 shots on goal as a defenseman, which also indicates the Red Wing’s sense that he as the skills to shine as possible scoring threat from the defensive line. Using superior speed and excellent puck handling ability, the 2009 5th round draft pick is prime to be a cornerstone of Detroit’s future.
To show their faith in their 1st year defenseman, the Wings inked Jensen to a 2-year contract extension in late February. Detroit will have their eyes on complimenting one young star that they have shown faith in, by solidifying the offensive prowess of a squad that will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1990.
After spending four years with the Wing’s AHL Grand Rapids affiliate, the Minnesota native out of St. Cloud State seems primed for his chance to shine. The Red Wings have reason for optimism as they build for the future using Jensen as a key piece of their number one line.