On a team with players such as superstar John Tavares and perennial 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson, its easy to forget about a player like Frans Nielsen. At 28-years old the Danish born staker has never led the team in scoring or made an all-star team. However, after Moulson and Tavares, Nielsen may be the the Islanders’ most important player and the team’s unsung hero on many nights.
Taken in the 3rd round (87th overall) by the Islanders in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Nielsen has been an exceptional center for the club on both offense and defense. Not known for his scoring abilities, Nielsen has managed to finish in the top six of team scoring every season since 2008. Nielsen’s point totals have been steadily rising since the 2008-2009 season, peaking last season when he achieved a career high in points, compiling 47 points (17G 30A) and playing in all 82 of the team’s games.
A jack of all trades, Nielsen’s abilities are not only limited to 5 on 5 play, but also on special teams. Along with Michael Grabner, Nielsen has become a deadly weapon on the Islanders’ penalty kill as he is able to use his creative defense to create short handed scoring chances for himself and others. During the 2010-2011 season, Nielsen was able to compile 8 points (7G 1A) while shorthanded, the most in the entire NHL. Let that sink in for a moment – in a league filled with superstars, Frans Nielsen was able to lead the entire league in an offensive category.
However, even with his steadily rising offensive numbers and defensive prowess, Nielsen’s greatest value to the Islanders could be his ability to consistently convert on his shootout attempts. Whether you love it or loathe it, the shootout is here to stay in the NHL and has become a critical part of every team’s fortunes as one talented shooter can be the difference between getting either 1 or 2 points in the standings.
Among active skaters with at least 20 attempts, Nielsen is currently the most deadly shootout man in the NHL – converting on 61.5% of his opportunities. The next best skater would be Boston Bruins’ forward Tyler Seguin who converts on 52.2% of his chances. Since the 2006-2007 season, Nielsen has been able to record 11 game deciding goals for the Islanders in shootouts. Nielsen’s go-to move in shootouts is his lethal backhand, better known as “The Danish Backhand of Judgement” and even though most opposing goalies know its coming they are still unable to stop it.
Career Shootout Statistics
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While John Tavares and Matt Moulson dominate the Islanders’ headlines both in victory and defeat, Frans Nielsen is the player who dominates the fine print, noted for doing all of the little things necessary to win. He may not be the flashiest skater or the go-to player on the team, but he is possibly one of the better all-around players in the entire NHL. Players like Tavares and Moulson will keep you in the big games, but it’s skaters like Nielsen that can tip the scales of victory in close games.
This season, Nielsen is currently 4th on the team in scoring with 9 points (1G A) and has scored on his only shootout attempt thus far. Nielsen is also only behind John Tavares and Matt Moulson in total ice time for Islanders’ forwards, averaging 18:55 TOI per game. The Islanders currently sit in 10th place in the Easter Conference behind a stellar season from John Tavares thus far. Although Tavares is the clearly the most talented player on the ice, Frans Nielsen’s play will inevitably have a big effect on wether or not the Islanders make the playoffs this season.