Frans Nielsen was the best player the Islander had that wasn’t on the first line. His 17 goals, 47 points were career bests, but the big stat for me was that he played in all 82 games. When it comes to Frans Nielsen it’s not how good he is, but how good he could be. For the rest of his career Nielsen will always get a vote or two for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for best defensive forward, but if he got the right linemates, he would get more than just votes. Don’t get me wrong Okposo/Parenteau & Grabner are/were great scorers just not the right fit for Nielsen.
I’ve said this before and I’m sure quite a few fans have as well, Neilsen is not second line scoring center. That doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous, but when people think of Neilsen he’s a special teams and shootout marvel. Nobody expects 20-25 goals from a center that does everything else on the ice. His overall game doesn’t allow him to do that, unless he has another level to his game and we haven’t seen it yet. But what if we put him on a third line with two-way wingers on either side of him? Ah. Folks I’m salivating at the thought of a Bailey-Nielsen-Joensuu third line. Combine the potential of Bailey’s offense at wing with Joensuu’s fore-checking in the corners and driving to the net at Nielsens disposal. Plus he will get the occasional assist on the penalty kill when Grabner scores on a breakaway. But what I’m really excited to see will be how effective that line will be defensively.
Frans Nielsen had an excellent year in terms of his personal stats. It’s what he could do with the proper linemates that really excites me. Fans I’m not going to lie, I’m almost pumped for this upcoming season to get started. But for me, I want that third line above. If that line does come together, not only will Nielsens numbers be steady, but he’ll get more than just votes for best defensive forward, he may be a finalist by next year. Him and the team are that close. If the Islanders make the playoffs, Nielsen and that line will be a big reason why. As he grows, so will the team.