If the Vancouver Canucks are looking for positives out of their lopsided loss Sunday, they got it in Nicklas Jensen and Darren Archibald.
The two, along with Alex Friesen, formed the Canucks best line during their first game at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton – a 7-2 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers.
And while the noticeable players on Vancouver were slim, both prospects were the first ones coach Craig MacTavish mentioned following the game.
“(Archibald) was a bright spot in our lineup and he definitely showed some promise. Great hands for a big man,” the Canucks affiliate bench boss said, adding that Jensen, “was not afraid of the traffic and didn't look out of place for an 18-year-old.”
The coach continued to rave about the two Monday, specifically noting Jensen “definitely passed the test” in his debut. The pair combined for Vancouver’s first goal, with Archibald laying a hit in the corner to force a turnover, which was picked up by Jensen. He then held off an Oilers defenceman and executed an impressive backhand pass to the front of the net to Archibald for a one-timer. The two had chemistry – as much as you can in a virtually meaningless affair to start the season – and did enough to stand out.
“I practised with him once only and this game here,” Jensen said of Archibald. “I really enjoy playing with him and also Alex. I played against them a few times (in junior) and I know I don’t like playing against those two. They’re hard working guys.”
The latter can also be said about Jensen. The Canucks first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2011 draft looked confident driving to the net and battling for the puck.
In April, his Oshawa Generals faced Archibald's and Friesen’s Niagara Ice Dogs in the second round of the OHL playoffs, with the latter winning the series 4-1. Archibald remembered Jensen, who had three goals and two points in five games, as a player who stood out in that conference semi-final.
“He's just a very well-rounded player,” said the 21-year-old, who has yet to bug Jensen about the playoff triumph. “He's really strong on the puck and has good vision.”
That’s exactly the type of game Jensen hopes to bring to this rookie camp.
The well-spoken Dane is big for his age at 6’3, 204 pounds. He said it gives him an advantage on the ice.
"It’s nice to have a big body,” said the winger. “I really just try to use my size to protect the puck and create chances with that. I know what I expect of myself and that is hard work.”
Archibald, on the other hand, is embracing the opportunity, having previously attended training camps with Columbus and Detroit.
Twice passed over in the NHL Entry Draft, he signed with the Canucks last December. The contract was “a load off the shoulders” and gave the self-proclaimed late bloomer a boost for his run with the Ice Dogs following a trade from the Barrie Colts. He had 36 points in 37 games for Niagara, and 10 goals in 14 playoff games.
“I've really just started to fill out in these last couple years here,” the Newmarket, Ont. native said. “I'm comfortable with my body now and I’m starting to try new things and focus on playing my game.”
Much like Jensen, that includes using his size to make plays happen.
“They're definitely expecting a physical presence from me to play a big man’s game,” said the smooth-skating 210-pounder. “I want to make a big impact.”
Along with Jensen, he’s off to a good start in doing just that.