by Rob LaPlante
ECM Sports reporter
If you look at Nick Jensen lately, his hair has grown into what hockey players refer to as “flow”. His flow rivals in length with six other St. Cloud State University teammates, who are growing their hair out for the charity Locks-of-Love. Jensen has also flown himself into the radar as one of the best defenseman in college hockey.
The junior from Rogers is coming off a career season a year ago for the Huskies. His six goals and 26 assists were both career highs and good enough to land him on the All-WCHA Third Team.
Expectations are high this year for both he and the Huskies, currently 4-2 and ranked No. 18 by OSCHO.com. SCSU labeled Jensen an assistant captain and this fall the team was picked by coaches to finish fourth and Jensen was chosen as one of six pre-season, All-WCHA picks.
“I took a lot at and it is exciting,” said Jensen, on reading early season predictions. “It just means I have to prove more. It’s a motivator for me. After practice when there’s extra ice, I’m out shooting; skating and putting in that extra work.”
It wasn’t long ago when the All-WCHA defenseman was helping his high school team win a Mississippi 8 Conference title in 2007 for the Royals.
While the Royals never made the state tournament in Jensen’s three seasons at Rogers, he is quick to point out he had the time of his life playing with his high school buddies.
“Winning the conference was a highlight,” said Jensen, who was named all-conference that season, leading the Royals to a 21-3-3 record, only to lose to Blaine in the section quarterfinals. “We didn’t have the best team in the state. But we had a lot of guys working hard. That was probably my biggest memory for Rogers.”
The honors were just beginning for Jensen. He also was named all-conference, honorable mention his junior year playing free safety and running back in football. He graduated in 2009 making both the football and hockey All-Academic Teams.
While he said he misses his days of playing football, he has no regrets in which sport he chose to play.
“Hockey is my number one,” said Jensen, who comes from a hockey family. His father, Jeff was drafted in 1978 by the Colorado Rockies of the NHL. “I miss football a little bit. You only play eight regular season games, so every time you get on the field it was a great memory.”
During his junior year in high school, Jensen committed to play hockey for SCSU. Like most high school hockey players who commit to D-I programs, Jensen figured he would skip his senior year at Rogers and join the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League.
“I grew up in Rogers since grade school and it was a tough decision to leave all my friends my senior year,” he said. “I was kind of scared. I didn’t know anybody at Green Bay. There’s fighting and older guys, but I have no regrets. I improved so much in that league.”
In two seasons in the USHL, he posted 49 points and helped the Gamblers to back-to-back first-place finishes.
One of the biggest highlights of his career came in 2008-09, when Jensen was drafted in the fifth round by the Detroit Red Wings. Jensen said he fondly remembers that day when he was taken in the 2009 NHL draft.
“I had a wedding the day before in Texas and I was up all night driving,” Jensen said. “I got home around eight in the morning and around nine, I got a call from my Green Bay coach John Cooper and he told me I got drafted. I didn’t even know. It was pretty exciting.”
Now, in his junior season, Jensen is looking to build on his already growing resume’. A finance major at SCSU, Jensen made the Dean’s List his sophomore season.
“Education is important to me,” he said. “Chances of playing 20 years in the NHL like Niklas Lidstrom, is not likely. Eventually I will have to go into the work force and get a job, so getting my degree is important to me.”
Ironically, the position that Lidstrom left behind when he recently retired from Detroit is the same position that Jensen could someday help fill the void.
“We talk to (Detroit) all the time,” Jensen said. “Their main concern is strictly performance. They want to see you getting better every year. I go to their summer camps and whether you leave early or stay, you’re going to get to that same development level, eventually.”
Nothing seems to be slowing down Jensen these days. With his skill and determination, the sky is the limit. That is, unless the hair stands in his way.