Born: September 21, 1990, St. Paul, Minnesota
Height, Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs
Contract: 2 years left at $812,500 (UFA in 2019)
Games Played: 49
Score-Adjusted CF%: 49.26%
Nick Jensen was one of several Grand Rapids Griffins who made the jump from the AHL this year, and although he was one of the last to be brought up, you could make the argument that he was one of the best.
Jensen, who had the potential to land a spot on the roster out of training camp (for like the third straight year), was not included on the Red Wings’ opening night roster. Jensen skated with the Griffins and when Mike Green went down with an injury on December 19th, the Red Wings called up Jensen and never sent him back.
The smooth skating defender played each of the remaining 49 games for the Wings, averaging about 17 minutes of TOI per game and chipped in 13 points along the way, good enough to tie for 2nd among Red Wings defenseman.
What He Did vs Expectations
I don’t really know what expectations were for Jensen, it’s hard to pinpoint what you really hope for out of a 26 year old defenseman making his NHL debut after 3 and a half years in the minors. I guess all that could be expected of him was that he’d provide a little extra jump to the Red Wings’ blueline with his skating and passing abilities, and handle other teams’ bottom 6 forwards. He’s not a guy who is going to log big minutes against top competition, but rather someone who is going to quietly do his job on the 3rd pair.
By most metrics, it seems like he played relatively well in a depth role and provided a decent option for the Wings as a 3rd pairing guy.
So, while he never had to go up the other team’s best players, he still did a serviceable job in the role he was put into. Note: If you need help reading this chart, head over here for a detailed example.
On a team that was one of the worst in the league at generating shot attempts last year, it seems as though Jensen provided a boost to the Wings’ offense.
Sure, we generated fewer chances from the tops of the circles with Jensen on the ice than we did without him, but two things encourage me when I look at these charts.
#1: With Jensen, the Wings were able to get more unblocked shots through from the point than they were without him. And if you’ve seen ever Danny DeKeyser or Jonathan Ericsson (or even Niklas Kronwall these days) handle the puck at the offensive blueline, you’ll know why this is a concern of mine.
And #2: With Jensen, the Wings were able to cycle the puck lower in the zone and into the slot more often than without him. On a team that needs players who can get the puck to the interior areas of the rink, either by taking it there themselves or otherwise, this is gold.
As far as shot attempt metrics go, Jensen ranks pretty favorably there among his Red Wing peers. According to Corsica.Hockey, Jensen finished first in even-strength CF% and second in Rel.CF%, Rel.xGF% and xGF% (all score, zone and venue adjusted). And @domluszczyszyn’s Game Score metric rates Jensen as a third pair defender, somewhere around what Xavier Ouellet is rated. And if you wanted to look at even-strength point production, Jensen finished runner up in both Points/60 minutes and Primary Points/60 minutes to Mike Green on this team. So, pretty all right for a guy who just stepped into the NHL full-time at age 26.
Final Grade: B
All in all, I think Jensen exceeded whatever expectations were set before him this year and maybe added a little bit on top of that. He may only be a 3rd pairing guy for the Wings going forward, but he’s good enough to play in the lineup every night and he has the ability to do something like this every once in a while too. (Thanks to Sportsnet for the video).
What Grade Should Nick Jensen Receive?
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