Frans Nielsen Deserves Selke Consideration
Frans Nielsen was drafted by the New York Islanders with the 87th pick of the third round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The twenty-six year old center, who turns twenty-seven on April 24th, comes from Herning, Denmark, making him the only Danish born player to be drafted and play in the NHL. Like many others from the Islanders prospect pool, Nielsen came up through the ranks after starting with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and has emerged as possibly the most reliable two-way forward on the Islanders roster since Michael Peca.
He currently has 42 points on the season, a career high that continues to increase season after season. With 11 goals and 31 assists on the year, Nielsen is just one goal shy from tying a personal best that was set at 12 last season and is a plus-13. That number is indicative of his abilities to contribute offensively while becoming relied upon to shut down the team's top offensive units, which he does on a nightly basis.
With Kyle Okposo back in the line-up, Nielsen has found chemistry between him and Michael Grabner, forming one of the most threatening units on the ice for Capuano's squad. They are scary quick and seem to know where each other will be on every play in all three zones of the ice. And of course, his famous back-hand that has cashed in on 5 of 8 chances in the shootout puts him as the sixth best shooter in the league at 62.5 percent. He ranks 24th overall for current active shooters at a total of 15 out of 26 converted attempts. (And for those of you who follow him closely - yes, he has used a forehand shot in the shootout about two times this year).
Although this list of intangibles is enough to make up a solid forward for your team, Nielsen is best known for his penalty killing abilities. Typically paired with Grabner, Nielsen has become the team's best defensive forward. Not only does he shut down the opposition's top lines during five-on-five play, but he does it with ease when playing at a disadvantage. Hence the fact that six of his eleven goals on the year have come when down a man, making him the league leader for shorthanded goals. The sixth was scored last night against former teammate, Dwayne Roloson as the Islanders defeated the Tampa Lightning with a 5-2 win. In fact, that shorthanded goal was accompanied by another from guess who? Good'ol Grabner, who is second in the league with five after sending the insurance marker into the empty net while the Lightning had the man-advantage.
Nielsen is a very skilled winger who knows when to execute his offensive prowess at the right moments when the team is trying to kill off an opposing power play. He makes smart defensive decisions in his own zone and is quick to come back on defense in aide of a pinching dman or to help out in the slot. He shuts down the team's top forward lines, wears an "A" on his sweater for character and leadership, owns a nifty set of hands and is a steady second line center. If you ask me, it's about time that Nielsen, a player that other team's have called an underrated forward, gets the recognition he deserves and is nominated for the Selke Trophy this summer; the best defensive forward in the league.
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