It’s unlikely that Frans Nielsen will be drafted in any of your leagues unless it is an extremely deep league, but he is a guy that has raised a few eyebrows over his short career. Even in Long Island of all places, Nielsen has certainly shown promise. I don’t want you guys to go out and draft him right away, but I do want you to keep an eye on him. Chances are everyone else in your league isn’t paying attention to him, so if he starts to take off, you’ll be a step ahead.


For those wondering, Nielsen is a 27 year-old Danish import. Before crossing the pond to play North American hockey, he spent five seasons in the Elitserien, which speaks volumes about his development. He spent little time adjusting to North American hockey, scoring 44 points in 54 AHL games, while dressing in 15 NHL games. He would split time the next season as well before solidifying a full-time NHL spot in 2008.


Since entering the league, Nielsen has improved his point totals each year, which is a great sign both in real life and in the fantasy world. He is used extensively on the penalty kill where he is a threat, scoring a league-leading seven shorthanded goals last year. Further, Nielsen was a plus-13 last season and a plus-four the year prior. In his three full and two partial NHL seasons, Nielsen has never had lower than a minus-four rating.  While most young players struggle with defensive coverage, Nielsen has this part of his game completely figured out.


On offense, last season’s output started to put him on people’s radars. Most likely, the guys in your league will look at Nielsen’s 44-point season and tell you that’s where he’s likely to stay. Consider this though – last season, Nielsen skated 36% of his even-strength shifts with Grabner and Okposo. You read that right, Kyle Okposo, a guy who missed half the season. Just to show how consistent this line was paired, Nielsen’s next most consistent even-strength line was with Grabner and Bailey for a whopping 8.8% of his season’s total shifts.


What this says to me is that during the first half of the season when Okposo was injured, Nielsen was primarily skating with an array of players, struggling for consistency. When Okposo finally returned to the lineup, the new line combination worked quite well and they stuck for the remainder of the season. The numbers are interesting to see too as up until January 20th (pre-Okposo), Nielsen scored 19 points in 37 games, which averages to 39.5 over a 77-game stretch. Once Okposo returned, Nielsen registered 25 points in 40 games, or 48.1 over a 77-game stretch. If you recall, Grabner also had a slow start. He actually scored 21 of his 34 goals after Okposo returned on January 20th as well, showing how much each of these two benefited from the addition of more talent into the lineup.


The other thing to consider is something that has been mentioned quite a bit recently. The New York Islanders are improving every single year. As the team improves, the output of its players will naturally increase as there is more talent to go around. Obviously not for everyone, but if you can spot a guy on the rise that the rest of your league is ignoring, you should be in a better position.


As I mentioned earlier, I don’t expect you to draft Nielsen, but there’s a good chance he could turn into a 50-point player with a decent chunk of shorthanded points and a positive plus/minus rating this year.  Due to lack of competition, it’s also likely he’ll center the second line in Long Island. If you run into injuries or if you’re just looking for a waiver wire pickup, keep an eye on Frans Nielsen in 2011-12.

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Rad64 said:

... Nice piece, Tim. I've also been following Nielsen for a few years. If Grabner, Okposo and Nielsen can remain together, you are looking at a solid + lineup where all three have a good chance to ecliplse 50 points...add in another 5-10 shorties for Grabner/Nielsen. Lack of power play opportunites will keep those two from reaching their peak. Okposo will likely get the prime PPP time.

I'm pretty pumped to catch a few Isles games this season. smilies/smiley.gif
September 22, 2011
Votes: +1

Nicolas said:

Definitely on my radar Playing in a salary cap league, Nielse is definitely on my radar since his salary is a ridiculous 0.550M$. If he scores 50 points, that's awesome value for a guy who should be available in the late stages of the draft.

And since no one in my pool reads Dobberhockey, I'm also confident he'll remain a very good sleeper pick. Thanks for confirming my thought on him, though!
September 22, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Lucarelli said:

... Thanks for the feedback guys. There are a couple things I forgot to mention in the article.

1. Nielsen is also in a contract year. He's making under $600k, so he already knows he's due for a raise. Motivation should be sky high to really get the most he possibly can.

2. How often do we dismiss players who are good defensively, only to see them break out and really start scoring? Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler are two players that come to mind, though I don't think Nielsen has the ceiling that either of those do. I could however see Nielsen eventually scoring 65 points with the talent that Long Island has on the horizon.

As Pengwin wrote below, Nielsen is an exciting player to watch. There were a few Islanders games that I watched where he was by far their best player. His only real competition for 2nd line center is Bailey and Nielsen has proven to be the more consistent, responsible, and even talented player thus far. I hope Bailey makes some strong strides this year, but it will likely be on the wing or at center on the third line. Line 2 should be Nielsen.
September 22, 2011
Votes: +0

Tim Johnston said:

... To add to what Pengwin said, I also dislike that "everythign will even out" argument. If you tell me they were top 5 in goals for last year, then yeah, there isn't a lot of room for improvement. However, the Islanders finished 15th in Goals For last year with 225 goals. To me, there's room to increase their team Goals For, therefore increasing the total points (goals, assists) available.
September 22, 2011
Votes: +0

Ryan Lenethen said:

+/- I think being +13 on the NYI speaks volumes in itself. Being positive two years running, more so.
September 22, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Well Hot Diggity Amen, brother... amen.

While most young players struggle with defensive coverage, Nielsen has this part of his game completely figured out.

While I love fantasy hockey, it sometimes gets lost on DobberHockey that there are some phenomenal overall two-way NHL players out there that we don't talk about because they aren't "fantasy-sexy". Nielsen has become one of my top 10 favourite NHL players over the past couple years. I love, love, love players who can put up a PLUS on a bad team. After I saw his statistics I started tuning in every chance I could get to watch the Isles play so I could watch Nielsen's game. A smart, smart player... you can just see it while he's out there, anticipating plays and clogging passing lanes.

As the fantasy hockey world goes, I loved another line:
The New York Islanders are improving every single year. As the team improves, the output of its players will naturally increase as there is more talent to go around.

I've had some discussions with some people who firmly believe "on every team, if some players totals go up, some will go down, because scoring will consistently even out". I hate this argument. There does exist cases of teams of younger players where they can all improve together and where several players in their top 6 will see their outputs rise. The Isles are indeed one of these teams where I could foresee all six players on their top two lines having better output this year than last year.

Absolutely loved this piece!!!
Awesome job Tim!
September 22, 2011
Votes: +0
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