Jannik Hansen: Portland’s Danish Dynamo
Sunday, 12 August 2007
Originally published in Prospects Hockey in 2006
By Lucas Aykroyd
Jannik Hansen is one cool customer. Insert the Portland Winter Hawks rookie into the first-ever shootout in team history (November 8 versus Prince George), and he responds by scoring the winning goal. Inform him that pop singer Jessica Simpson (his dream date according to the club’s official web site) is now single, and he quips, “Yeah, I’m going to make my move in a month or two.”
You’d never guess Hansen is the first-ever player from Denmark to appear in the WHL. The small, soccer-loving Scandinavian country may be famed for its pastry, but this 19-year-old talent is no cream puff.
“Jannik’s been great for us,” says Portland coach Mike Williamson. “We didn’t really know much about him going into the draft. We went on the word of his agent and a few scouts, but hadn’t seen him ourselves. He’s got great skills. He’s still learning the North American game a little bit, but he competes every night.”
Blessed with excellent on-ice vision and soft hands, the 6-0, 176-pound winger has contended for the WHL rookie scoring lead this season, frequently playing alongside savvy veterans like Jonathan Bubnick and Brandon Dubinsky.
“I thought it would take a little longer to adjust to the smaller rink and more physical play,” says Hansen. “But now I don’t notice the rink being smaller than [in Europe] so much anymore.”
With just 4,300 registered players and 14 rinks, Denmark has struggled to catch up with other hockey nations. But Hansen, whose father also played hockey, is doing his part to narrow the gap. In 2004-05, he finished second in scoring in the top Danish pro league, and he represented his country at the 2005 IIHF World Championship in Austria.
A late 2004 draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks, Hansen grew up admiring former Canuck star Petri Skriko, who played and now coaches in Denmark. Today, Hansen receives advice about staying consistent from ex-Vancouver captain Stan Smyl.
“It’s a hard schedule compared to Europe, where we play around 40 games a year,” says Hansen. “In the WHL we play twice as many games, and there’s much more travel. So it’s about keeping focused all year, and not just for half a season.”
Hansen has coolly charted out his future.
“Hopefully I’ll come and play for the Canucks in a couple of years. But the first step will probably be with the farm team, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”