2022-23 Team: Rögle BK JR.
Date of Birth: Jun. 22, 2005
Place of Birth: Stockholm, Sweden
Height: 6-foot, Weight: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2023 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters): 24th
- Dobber Prospects: 44th
- Elite Prospects: 55th
- SMAHT Scouting: 56th
- The Hockey Writers (Horn): 65th
- Daily Faceoff: 65th
Few have seen a larger rise up the draft rankings like Felix Nilsson has this season. At the midterm mark, the Swedish center was ranked 78th among European skaters, but, after a strong conclusion to his season which included a dominant showing at the Four Nations tournament, he is now ranked 24th, heading into the 2023 NHL Draft. Whichever organization selects him will not be disappointed, as he has all the attributes needed to become a third-line center at the NHL level.
Breaking down Nilsson’s game, one thing that stands out is just how smart he is with and without the puck. In the defensive zone, he can read bounces off the glass extremely well, which allows him to get to loose pucks and start the transition game. He also isn’t shy about helping out his defenders as he joins in on battles along the boards to help get the puck out of his zone. While he isn’t the most polished defensively, he understands where he needs to be to cut off shooting and passing lanes, making it difficult for the opposition to generate offence when he is on the ice.
Whether it is in the transition game or with possession in the offensive zone, Nilsson loves to drive the middle of the ice. By doing this, he forces defenders to try and close off his path, often resulting in one of his wingers being left open for a pass. Once his teammate is open, he is a good enough passer to make tape-to-tape passes, often leading to a scoring chance. His ability to read the play and react with the puck on his stick is one of his top attributes and one of the reasons he is one of the top U18 scorers in the J20 Nationell league this season.
At the club level, Nilsson had a fantastic season for Rögle BK at multiple age levels. Starting with their J20 Nationell team, he led all skaters with 41 points in 36 games and helped them capture a gold medal at the end of the season. He also played 18 regular season games at the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) level for Rögle BK while also participating in two postseason games during their first-round series versus Leksands IF. Overall, it was an impressive year for the young Swede as he showed that not only could he dominate against competition his own age, but also keep up and be trusted to play against professionals.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Nilsson is a good all-around player but needs to fine-tune his game if he wants to make the jump to the NHL sooner rather than later. The biggest area of concern is his skating, but that is something he has been working on and has improved throughout the season. At this point, he is a prospect with plenty of upside that could have a very successful NHL career if put in the right situation.
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Felix Nilsson – NHL Draft Projection
After starting the year as a projected late-round pick, Nilsson has the chance to be one of the first 60 players called at this year’s draft. He has shown NHL organizations that he is willing to put in the work needed to become a better player and has displayed high potential upside. For that reason, expect his name to be called between pick 55 and 65.
“Nilsson has a lot of very valuable traits that NHL scouts covet; he is smart in all three zones, responsible defensively, reliable on the breakout and in transition, and has quick feet. He keeps his stick ready and his head on a swivel, reading his surroundings as he goes and adjusting his positioning to either stifle threats defensively, or identify pressure outlets offensively.” – Hadi Kalakeche, Dobber Prospects
“He drives play, and is a plus passer and shooter, while being aware and engaged in the defensive zone. He might not be “elite” in any area, but he is above average virtually everywhere. Down the line he could grow into a reliable 3C in the NHL who can play with anyone and prosper.” – Alex Appleyard, SMAHT Scouting
“Nilsson is a center that contributes at both ends of the ice. He often makes the right decision with his high hockey IQ, and is rather fast from thought to action when he has his hands on the puck. He comes down deep in his own end, making him playable and transports the puck safely into the offensive zone.” – Fedeik Hakk, FC Hockey
- Decision-making with the puck
- Ability to find open space
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Skating Mechanics
- Utilizing his shot more
If Nilsson continues to develop the way he has, there is little question that he will make the NHL one day. This is a prospect that projects as a third-line center and can really help boost a team’s bottom-six group. He should also be able to contribute to the power play thanks to his strong playmaking skills and offensive awareness.
Risk – 2.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7/10, Defense – 6/10
Achievements & Awards
- 2020-21 TV-Pucken Gold Medal
- 2021-22 J18 SM Bronze Medal
- 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup Silver Medal
- 2022 WJAC-19 Bronze Medal
- 2022-23 J20 SM Gold Medal