Continuing our best of series, today we will look at the best player to wear number 51 for the New York Islanders in their history.
In the New York Islanders history, only four players have worn the number 51 during their time on Long Island. The first to do it was Anders Myrvold in 2001. He played just 12 games for the Isles that season.
In 2002, Dave Roche wore it for one game playing just 2:51 on the ice in that game. The next two guys are who I’d like to talk about more.
The most recent player to wear it, Valtteri Filppula, will be our honorable mention for today. He spent just one year with the Islanders but he was fairly productive in his role in 2018-2019. In 72 games, he scored 17 goals (his highest goal total since 2014) and 31 points.
In his third-line role he was more than fine for what the Isles were paying him for. Before trading for JG Pageau, you could make the case that the Islanders were missing his presence on that line.
As for our winner today, we’re going with Frans Nielsen. In the 2002 draft, the Islanders selected Nielsen in the third round (87th overall). Four years later, he’d make his NHL debut as a 22-year-old playing in 15 games.
In 2007-2008, Nielsen played another 16 games but continued putting up solid numbers in Bridgeport where he had 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 48 games. 2008-2009 saw Nielsen’s playing time increase.
He played in 59 games putting up 33 points and averaging 16:32 per night. Just two years later he cracked 40 points and never looked back. His best year with the Islanders came in 2014 when he finished with 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists). He put up career highs across the board and was playing 18:20 a night.
2015-2016 was his last year with the Islanders, again productive putting up 52 points along the way and 20 goals. He would leave for Detroit where he cashed in on a six-year $31.5 million ($5.25 million AAV contract).
His production has tailed off, especially this year with just nine points in 60 games. In 10 seasons with the Isles, he put up 349 points in 606 games and was one of the most deadly weapons in the NHL in the shootout with his backhand.
Frans was a phenomenal two-way center and someone every good team needs. His time on the Island will be remembered fondly.