Nicklas and Brendan Jensen may have the same last name, but they enter prospect camp with completely different expectations. And, for that matter, pronunciations. Nicklas sports a soft “J”, while Brendan has a hard “J”, which is appropriate, as he has a much harder path ahead of him.
Nicklas is a first-round pick, while Brendan is an unsigned invitee. Nicklas spent his summer at the Canucks’ development camp, while Brendan spent the summer wondering if he’d have a job with the Vancouver Giants, as Canucks draft pick Jonathan Iilahti was slated to come over from Finland. Nicklas has been training with the Danish U-20 team in Quebec, playing exhibition games against teams in the QMJHL, while Brendan has been training with the Giants and having his coach publicly question his ability to be a number one goaltender.
“I mean, you’d always like to have a proven No. 1 but that’s just not the way the situation is right now,” said Giants coach, Don Hay. “We have to make a decision whether we feel he’s capable of being the No. 1.”
And yet, both find themselves at the Canucks’ prospect camp and Young Stars tournament, both wearing the familiar orca on the front of their jerseys. The two 18-year-olds are actually in a very similar place in their hockey careers, but the path ahead is very different for each. Nicklas’s future in hockey is secure: if he struggles adapting to the professional game, he’ll have time to develop in the Canucks’ system. The Young Stars tournament is an opportunity to prove himself to Canucks management and he may even have a chance to play 9 games in the NHL before he returns to the OHL. A poor performance won’t derail his development.
Nicklas certainly feels the pressure of being a first round draft pick. “Of course, you’re nervous when it’s your first time at an NHL camp,” he said prior to Sunday’s game. “It’s always hard to be the main guy and everybody’s looking at you. I’m just here to show my best every day and hopefully stay here for as long as possible.”
The young Dane certainly didn’t look nervous on Sunday, as he handled the puck with intelligence and poise. His assist on Darren Archibald’s game-opening goal was sublime and his overall performance was one of the few bright spots for the Canucks’ prospects in a 7-2 loss.
For Brendan, it’s a very different story. As an undrafted goalie who may not even have a starting job this season, the Young Stars tournament is one of what might be very few chances to demonstrate his talent to NHL teams. “I think it’s really important to perform at a high level, so that everybody can see what I bring to the table and what I would offer to any team that would be interested in me,” he said Friday.
But he might not even get a chance to play.
“I don’t really know if I’ll play at all, actually, because there’s three of us,” he said. ” The other two goalies, there’s one drafted goalie and the other one’s a ’90 (born in 1990), so I’m just going to go out there and whatever situation I’m put in, I’m just going to try my best.”
David Honzik may have struggled in the opening game, but he, like Nicklas, is a Canucks draft pick, so he’ll be given some leeway. Karel St. Laurent, who performed well in relief of Honzik, is 20 years old and is wrapping up his career in Junior hockey. He will be starting today against the Flames prospects and will be given every chance to prove himself.
Still, Brendan is keeping a positive outlook. “You just have to be calm and patient and wait for your opportunity.”
For Nicklas, that opportunity may be on the near horizon. The self-proclaimed “nice guy and a happy guy” is quietly confident. About the benefit of being at camp, he said “If I return to Oshawa, it’s going to be a big help just to bring back what I’ve been doing and all the help I got here.” Yes, he said if he returns to Oshawa. With Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond out to start the season, there are two big holes on the second line that need to be filled, and Jensen seems to have an eye on one of them.
Brendan, on the other hand, will definitely be returning to junior hockey. He won’t be battling for a spot in an NHL lineup; he’ll be battling for his job. “I just have to go into the mindset that you have to compete and battle for your job. I mean, anybody can come in and they can make trades while I’m here.”
“You just have to look at it as an opportunity every day, that you have to put your best foot forward.”
Tags: Brendan Jensen, featured, Invitees, Nicklas Jensen, Prospects, spotlight, YoungStars