Nikolaj Ehlers world junior bound? It wouldn’t hurt

Not long ago Nikolaj Ehlers was being mentioned as an early candidate for the Calder Trophy.

The Jets winger turned a lot of heads after beginning his promising NHL career netting four goals and nine points through 14 games. But since being moved to the third line — paired with Alex Burmistrov and Chris Thorburn — Ehlers’ offence has all but vanished with just one goal in the last 19 games.

The question now is, should the Jets consider lending Ehlers to Denmark for the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship?

Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun raised the point in his latest article, noting that perhaps a couple weeks playing against other junior players may reignite his offence.

While it’s true that Ehlers is working hard to round out the other parts of his game in the transition to the NHL, he’s an offensive player who uses his speed to create scoring chances for himself and others when he’s at his best. That hasn’t been happening often enough these days, so perhaps spending a couple weeks playing against his peers could help spark his confidence.

With the Jets trying to get back into playoff contention for the second straight year, it still seems unlikely Ehlers will be loaned out even for a couple weeks. Although, it wouldn’t hurt his development.

If sending Ehlers to the world juniors is in fact out of the question, Jets coach Paul Maurice should consider moving the 19-year-old back to the second line where he had much of his early success. 

Since being slotted on the third line, Ehlers’ shot count has decreased considerably as well. He had 51 shots through the first 14 games of the season and just 21 in the last 14.

Despite the setback in scoring, Ehlers still ranks 10th in scoring (12 points) and third in shots (72) among rookies.

Ehlers had four points in five games at last year’s world junior tournament where he helped Denmark reach the quarter-finals before losing 8-0 to Canada.