Nikolaj Ehlers – Where Art Thou? Should the Winnipeg Jets Be Worried?

Winnipeg Jets, Nikolaj Ehlers (27). Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Winnipeg Jets, Nikolaj Ehlers (27). Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports /

On October 18, 2022, two games into the 2022-2023 season, the Winnipeg Jets organization designated Nikolaj Ehlers ineligible with a “Lower Body” (injury designations are silly). He was then subsequently placed on injured reserve on October 21 retroactively.

What appeared to be a hand injury morphed into a series of nebulous and opaque declarations by the team. Scott Arniel originally indicated that Ehlers was simply dealing with a “nagging” injury, but there have been no verified indications of what Ehlers is dealing with, and when he is set to return. The shrouded mystery here is troubling because in the absence of information, speculation takes its place.

It is low hanging fruit to say that this is a shame. Firstly, we have to begin to question whether Ehlers is saddled with the dreaded “injury prone” tag. Ehlers has dressed in 62, 71, 47, and 62 games since 2018. The 47 games was in the 2020-2021 lockout, but he has missed significant time in each season. Ehlers style of play can best be described as “frenetic chaos” which makes him an effective NHLer, but that style, combined with his slight frame – appear to make him prone to injuries.

Winnipeg Jets forward, Nikolaj Ehlers is really good at hockey

The biggest issue is that 2022-2023 was supposed to be his breakout season. Relegated to second-line minutes and clean-up powerplay duties under the Maurice administration, Ehlers was to assume a ‘star’ role this year. Even under Maurice however, Ehlers is our best forward.

His 3-year weighted WAR metrics are incredible:

Where he is missed the most is on the powerplay. The Jets currently rank 19th overall but have struggled mightily on their zone entries 5 on 4. Ehlers is a wizard at this, and forces opponents to back into their defensive zone, permeating the ever-present penalty kill “wall”.

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So, whatever is going on injury wise, let’s throw a penny in a well for a speedy recovery. The Jets are 9-4-1 without him, so it is tantalizing what they could look like with a little frenetic chaos in the lineup.

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