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This article was published 22/12/2015 (2103 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CALGARY — On paper, Nikolaj Ehlers would seem to be a good milk-carton candidate.
The 19-year-old Winnipeg Jets rookie right-winger has now gone eight games without a point and 10 without a goal.
After a small flurry early in the season when he scored four goals in his first nine NHL games, the first-round draft pick of 2014 has just one marker in the last 25 games.
These are not the kinds of numbers offensive players brag about but Ehlers and his coach, Paul Maurice, made the case Tuesday it’s still premature to be sending his picture to dairy companies.
"I think I’ve been using my speed more," Ehlers said Tuesday after taking a season-high six shots on goal in Monday’s loss in Edmonton. "I’ve been on the puck in every way I can, creating more chances. And just getting more shots to the net than I’ve been doing the last couple of games."
The drought, he said, is not weighing on him.
"I wouldn’t say I’ve thought a lot about it," he said. "In the beginning, they did go in and I did have a lot of shots to the net.
"I’ve talked to some of the guys on the team and everybody goes through that phase on the team where you have a lot of shots, good chances, and it just doesn’t want to go in. It’s just something that you have to battle through and get on with and keep going.
"I think the last couple of games I’ve been trying that and have really had some great chances and I think I’ll just keep doing that."
Maurice was eager to make the case Ehlers has been more of a factor in recent games.
It could be it’s taken him some time to adjust to a new line, with Alex Burmistrov and Chris Thorburn, but it could also be more of a rookie factor, that new players in the NHL require different schedules for the adaptation and comfort level.
"He’s back skating," Maurice said Tuesday. "I think that’s where it all starts. He’s got just great vision and he’s got great hands and it’s not just as a shooter. He passes the puck exceptionally well. It’s hard, flat and on the tape.
"But all of it is driven by speed. All of it is driven by the space that he creates and we need to have some patience with a young man at 19. You’re not going to be able to skate like that every night but we’re glad, and again in probably three of his last four games it looks like he’s back skating like he did early in the year."
Maurice said that attitude has been and is going to be a big asset for Ehlers.
"Real good language on the young man," the coach said. "He’s frustrated the puck’s not going in the net on a night like (Tuesday night), sure, but it doesn’t affect his mental attitude.
"I think we’ve got a really mentally strong young man that, as we say, the toughest part of his game is his age and he works on it every day. (Ehlers turns 20 on Valentine’s Day.)
"There’s a guy who came in, listens and plays well defensively and his offence is going to come because he’s a good hockey player. He’s handled it well."
Ehlers has averaged 14 minutes 32 seconds of ice time per game so far this season.
And he’s discovered the NHL game isn’t the same every night.
"I think the league is getting harder and harder," he said. "It’s that teams are playing more games and getting ready for the playoffs. It’s a pretty hard league to play in. I’ve realized that now for sure. Still a lot of hard work to be done."
He gave himself a grade of "OK" on Tuesday.
"I think there are still a lot of things I can do better, to become a better player in this league," he said. "It’s still going to take some time for me to really settle in and really (have) a big role on this team."