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A NHL team in need of stay-at-home defencemen in their pipeline might pluck Spenser Jensen out of Alberta at the end of this month.
The former first-rounder in the Western Hockey League bantam draft had a promising sophomore season with the Medicine Hat Tigers, showing some raw potential as a tall shutdown defenceman. At 6-foot-4 and 191 pounds, the Airdrie, Alta., native showed he could use his length to break up offensive sequences and cause turnovers, making the young Tigers a tough out in the Dub’s Eastern Conference.
“It takes a little while for you to get the little skills like puck handling when you’re a gangly guy,” says Jensen, whom NHL Central Scouting has ranked 76th among domestic skater. “I think that’s been coming along. I’ve put on 20 pounds the past two years so hopefully I can continue with that.
“This year I thought I came in a lot stronger and felt like I was more physical. I got more confident game by game, carrying the puck and skating with it.”
Jensen had one goal, 10 points and 66 penalty minutes across 68 games with Medicine Hat. Most scouting reports indicate that he profiles strictly as a defensive defenceman who can help kill penalties. Overall, the progress that the 18-year-old made this season was validated when he helped the seventh-seeded Tigers take out the Saskatoon Blades in a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs, consigning the MasterCard Memorial Cup host team to a nearly unprecedented 51-day hiatus before the tournament.
“It was sort of odd but you still want to see them do well, they’re representing the Dub in the Memorial Cup,” he says of watching the Blades compete in the tournament. “They’re obviously a skilled team, they just weren’t able to come through in the playoffs. They did beat Halifax in the Memorial Cup [before the Mooseheads won the tournament].”
1. How do you assess your season in The Hat, how it unfolded from start to finish and what you took out of it?
“I think we played really well as a team and came together more as the year went. I thought I developed a bit. Toward the end of the year I was getting more comfortable with the puck and was more intelligent with my puck plays. I also got stronger and was a little more physical. And of course, it was nice for our team to beat Saskatoon and get to the second round before getting a tough matchup against Edmonton [which went on to win the Eastern Conference].”
2. Whom in the NHL do you study closely because they play a game similar to the one you see yourself playing at that level?
“I think there’s lots of guys. [Boston Bruins captain] Zdeno Chara, being a bigger guy, of course I look up to him. He’s a good shutdown guy.”
3. Who is the toughest forward you faced in the Dub?
There are a lot of good forwards. Ty Rattie [the league’s playoff MVP for the Portland Winterhawks] is obviously one who stands out, he’s a very skilled forward. He’s from my hometown, Airdrie. Being two years apart, we didn’t play together, but our paths have crossed working out. A lot of people look up to Ty.”
4. Who is someone from outside the Dub you would love to play against regularly, just to see what he’s all about on the ice?
“Me being a D-man, it would have been cool to watch [the Belleville Bulls’] Jordan Subban. I know he’s quick and skilled. [Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds star] Darnell Nurse, I know he’s a very good player. I got to know him a little bit, our paths crossed sometimes in spring hockey.”
5. Outside of family, who had the greatest influence on you getting to this point in hockey?
“Probably Pat Elyniuk. He was a great goal scorer who played in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets. He coached me spring hockey for about five years, myself and all the Calgary-area guys, including [Prince Albert Raiders defenceman] Josh Morrissey and [Regina Pats forward] Morgan Klimchuk. He was a big role model and helped us a lot.”
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.