Once is a coincidence, twice is a trend.

In his time as general manager, we haven’t seen Ray Shero take many European prospects in the NHL Entry Draft.

However, as the dust settles heading into the 2011 draft, we’re getting a good inkling of where the gurus are seating the top 30 in anticipation of the first round.

The Penguins will pick 23rd overall this year, and one name has been consistently present in that range according to major draft outlets: first year OHL product Nicklas Jensen.

TSN draft guru Craig Button lists Jensen at 27 overall, Central Scouting has him at 21, the ISS (as well as various other outlets) list him at 22.

So, the general consensus here is that Jensen could potentially be available, and perhaps the best player on the board, when the Penguins select at 23.

So what would make Jensen the exception to the rule? Why would Shero break stride to select a European born player?

For starters, Jensen is a Dane, and it’s becoming common knowledge around the NHL world that Danish players are a keen combination of humble, patient, and hard working.

Also, Jensen has proved his worth at the OHL level. His rookie year with Oshawa saw him net 29 goals and 29 assists in 61 games, followed up with an impressive 11 points in 10 playoff games, including 7 goals in that campaign.

While Jensen might not have the muck and grind mentality of a prototypical Bylsma-forward, he possesses one major trait that no other prospect in the system can currently boast.

Jensen is a legitimate shooting threat.

That’s not to slight Beau Bennett. In some respects, the two are extremely similar. They’re both fluid and dynamic skaters that can get up ice with no problem whatsoever, they both have very good individual skills. Where they differ is overall pedigree and explosiveness, where Bennett has a major advantage.

That being said, Bennett cannot snipe like Jensen can, and that is a distinct trait that is lacking in the overall prospect pool for Pittsburgh.

We still have a lot to learn about Jensen’s overall abilities, we’ve only seen one year of North American hockey, but like the Dane’s before him, his presence and awareness on the ice is paired with an impeccable work ethic. That combination makes him an extremely coachable prospect and a potential vital asset for a coach of Bylsma’s nature.

As I mentioned above, don’t count on Jensen to grind down the opposition, count on him to open up space with his vision and hands and put hard, accurate shots on the net when he finds that puck in an open area.

You obviously want to take the best player available, but the bonus here is two fold for the Penguins. Not only will Jensen potentially be the best player available at 23 overall, but he might also fill a void that the Penguins have in the overall scope of their development pool.