The Canes have the No. 7 selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday. Each day this week, CanesNow will take a look at a potential pick.
Today: Nikolaj Ehlers.
Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads appears to be an intriguing prospect, one that has piqued the interest of many NHL scouts.
"He's a helluva of a player, a dynamic offensive force," said Tony MacDonald, the Canes' director of amateur scouting.
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Ehlers, from Aalborg, Denmark, isn't a big guy (5-11, 176). He's not one of the top 10 North American skaters (13th by Central Scouting). But the winger may work his way into the top 10 in the draft Friday night in Philadelphia.
Ehlers finished fourth in scoring last season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and was named the league's rookie of the year. He had 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games, then put together an impressive postseason that saw him notch 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 16 games. He’s a sniper who quickly made the adjustment from the Swiss Elite League and European rinks to the smaller confines of North American ice.
MacDonald noted that Ehlers played part of the season for the Mooseheads on a line with Jonathan Drouin, the Tampa Bay Lightning first-round pick (third overall) in 2013. Drouin was third in scoring in the QMJHL.
"There's some talk that Drouin made Ehlers better," MacDonald said. "Maybe so, but he contributed to Drouin's success, too.
"He scored 49 goals. He had more than 100 points. He's not afraid to go into the tough areas. In one game I saw him get hit about as hard as anyone all season and he didn't miss a shift."
Ehlers, 18, has starred for Denmark's Under-20 and Under-18 Division 1A World Junior teams, coming back with gold medals. He also has good bloodline: his father, Heinz, played pro hockey in Europe.
While Canes general manager Ron Francis has talked about a preference for adding bigger, stronger players, Ehlers is a smaller, quicker player with a big game.
"He's got skill, he can skate and he can create," MacDonald said. "He's an offensive player but he's also pretty responsible without the puck. There's no doubt he's a top-end prospect."