1-His defensive abilities are high-end.
Any person eligible for Selke candidate votes is usually a great defensive forward, and Nielsen is no exception. His size does limit him “at times”, but not much. His speed, hands, and smarts make him an excellent shutdown/2-way 2nd line center for even playoff teams. Not to mention, he is an excellent PKer, leading all centers (and forwards for that matter) in shorthanded goals and points last year with 7 and 8 respectably. Calling him a defensive mastermind and shorthanded specialist fits him perfectly. So there is easily a case for Nielsen being one of the best defensive centers/forwards in the NHL.
2-Nielsen is offensively adequate enough to be an above average offensive 2nd line center(and forward for that matter).
Nielsen had a full season equivalent 15goals/48pts season last year. When compared to the other centers and forwards, he would rank 38th offensively among centers(equivalent to an above-average offensively 2nd line center) or rank 93rd among all forwards(equivalent to a well-above average 2nd line forward offensively or borderline 1st line forward).
3-He isn’t as undersized as people think.
Sure, 6’ 187lbs isn’t average sized for nhl forwards, but did you know that other good top 6 forwards like: M.Ribeiro(6’ 179lbs), M.Grabovski(5’11’’ 183lbs), D.Roy(5’9’’ 184lbs), S.Stamkos(6’1’’ 188lbs), H.Sedin(6’2’’ 188lbs), P.Datsyuk(5’11’’ 194lbs), P.Bergeron(6’2’’ 194lbs), M.Richards(5’11’’ 195lbs), B.Richards(6’ 195lbs), T.Oshie(5’11’’ 195lbs), and J.Pavelski(5’11’’ 195lbs) are similar in size to Nielsen? Pretty good company there size wise. So size should be of little concern as shown by nhl comparable centers.
4-Nielsen’s faceoff ability is of top 6 center quality(albeit it a little sub-par for a 2nd line center last year, but likely average overall).
His 46.2% faceoff win percentage isn’t as bad as it looks. 96th in the NHL in faceoffs for centers(that played more then 60gms last year), and more importantly, 54th in the NHL in faceoffs for centers that played more then 16min/gm last year(cutoff for top 6 centers I’d go with). So that makes Nielsen a bit subpar as a 2nd line center for taking faceoffs, but still a capable 2nd line faceoff center. And to add to this, last year Nielsen had a 50% faceoff win percentage, and 47.2% the year before that. So just looking at Nielsen’s track record, I’d say it’s fair to believe he is around average quality as a 2nd line center for taking faceoffs when he is healthy and on his game.
5-Nielsen has been doing all this against 1st line-in between 2nd and 1st line competition, and Corsi says he's been doing it really well.
Running through his corsi numbers and relative quality of competition, he has faced tough top 6 competition the last 2 seasons and was very successful in doing so. His corsi has been one of the best on the team the last couple years among forwards while facing some of the toughest competition on the team and taking a lot of defensize zone starts. Things that are very good for a top 6 center and shows he deserves the 2nd line center position.
In summary, Nielsen is a great 2nd line center because he is an excellent defensive center, above average offensively for the position, isn’t as undersized as you would think, is capable enough at faceoffs to be responsible as a 2nd line center, and has already done all this against top quality competition and succeeded well at doing it(corsi). Anyone doubting Nielsen’s abilities to fulfill a 2nd line center role on a great team should be dismissed. The Great Dane is capable enough overall for the job. Discuss, vote, and comment.