We’re five games in to the new NHL season, and Nikolaj Ehlers has found the scoresheet just once. Naturally, hockey fans feel like they have the right to panic, but as the 2021-22 season rolls on, a slow start to the year isn’t worth getting worked up about.
As Jets fans know, Ehlers has been one of Winnipeg’s more talented forwards on an already forward-heavy team. Consistently playing top six minutes, it’s no surprise why the 25-year-old has seen a consistent increase in production since he’s joined the NHL.
So while the former ninth overall pick has struggled offensively to start the year, it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. Ehlers and the Jets have plenty of time to turn things around, and it starts with simply staying persistent when the results aren’t going your way.
Ehlers is Far Too Talented to Struggle for Long
Notching 58 points in 71 games throughout the 2019-20 season, and following that up by averaging just under a point-per-game in 2020-21, Ehlers is a proven point producer at the NHL level. Taking into consideration that he’s also been overshadowed at times by other players on his team, and his offensive output is even more impressive given his role with the Jets.
Currently penciled in on a familiar line alongside Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny, both of whom have five points each through Winnipeg’s first five games, it’s odd to see Ehlers struggling to find the scoresheet. However, as his line continues to drive offensive chances for the Jets, Ehlers’ luck is bound turn at some point or another.
Remember, this is a player who ranked among the league’s best last season in terms of offensive numbers, so it’s hard to imagine Ehlers staying quiet for long.
Jets’ Lineup Absences Present Unique Opportunity for Ehlers
With both Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele currently under Winnipeg’s COVID-19 protocol, the opportunity is there for Ehlers. As alluded to earlier, a lack of first line opportunities has plagued Ehlers due to the high end talent currently on the Jets roster.
But with Wheeler and Scheifele all but certainly out of commission for Winnipeg’s California road trip, Ehlers could slot in alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor at a moment’s notice. As of right now, it seems as though Ehlers is at the top of the list when it comes to filling in on both the top line and the first power play unit, so the time couldn’t be better for Ehlers to kickstart his offensive game.
Albeit in a smaller sample size, the Jets power play has been lights out to start the season, largely in part due to Kyle Connor and the torrid start he’s had to his season. Firing at 26.3%, which is good for 11th in the league, Ehlers joining the fold could spell the end of his offensive slump through the first five games.
What’s more is that with Jets head coach Paul Maurice stating that there’s no clear timetable for Wheeler and Scheifele’s return, Ehlers could find himself in higher leverage situations for much longer than originally expected.
Five Games is Way Too Early to Hit the Panic Button
The bottom line is that five games into a new season is far too early to hit the panic button on any player. Ehlers, being one of the Jets’ top performers from last season, is no different. While he’ll certainly be the first to admit that things have not gone according to plan to start the season, the Jets as a whole have struggled, meaning there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.
With his line continuing to produce offense and with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele in COVID-19 protocol, now is as good a time as any for Ehlers to hit his stride in the new season.
He’s about to find himself in plenty more opportunities and he could see a significant increase in his ice-time, especially with the Jets set to carry 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on their upcoming road trip.
What have you thought about Ehlers’ performance so far this season? How can he turn things around? Let me know in the comments.
Currently a sport media student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Josh Kim is a freelance photographer and journalist with The Hockey Writers. Having worked within the ECHL, PWHPA, and OHL in a variety of content-based roles, Josh has been working in sports for the past 5+ years and currently finds himself working with Ryerson athletics as a sports photographer. With The Hockey Writers, Josh chases feature stories while also covering the Winnipeg Jets, the World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft. While hockey continues to be his main focus, Josh is also a fully credentialed WNBA writer and the host of the Get Your Head in the Game podcast, which emphasizes the connection between mental health and sport. If you’re interested in seeing a full display of his work, if you’ve got a story tip, or just want to get in touch, please find Josh’s socials linked below his articles and visit his website: joshkimphoto.com