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Grading the Islanders: Frans Nielsen, great Dane, already housebroken

Been dutifully sprinkling these player reviews throughout the summer -- and some have felt obligatory -- but Frans Nielsen is one that excites me. Can't remember where I read or saw it, but Garth Snow said that while he conducted interviews for the next Islanders coach (the first coach who would be his choice), Nielsen was one of the players Scott Gordon brought up as a good player who could do a lot more and play a bigger role.

Last season, at least before Mike Mottau's sorry blindside hit, bore that out. Check after the jump for some food for thought before you issue your grade.

Frans Nielsen

#51 / Center / New York Islanders



Apr 24, 1984

1+ change

3 more at $525k - now that is asset management.

Wait, we're counting on this guy? Hello, Tavares.

Frans Nielsen GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG TOI PKtoi PPtoi Sh%
2008-09 59 9 24 33 -4 18 3 1 2 16:32 1:50 3:16 8.9

Random Fact: "Tourist who are decided to visit Denmark will meet Kindom of Harmony. But at the same time you will feel yourself like kiked down out your way." I don't make this stuff up, though someone might have.

"This is our concern, Dude" Fact: I want you to be healthy, Frans. But the implication that the knee was still an issue after you came back worries me, it does. You need your speed and agility. Nielsen had just 1 goal in his first 25 games after returning from injury.

That said, his production eventually returned, and he picked up 6 goals in his final15 games:

2008-09 - Frans Nielsen GP G A P +/-
Before injury (to Nov. 21, 2008): 19 2 7 9 -6
After injury (after Jan. 13, 2009):
40 7 17 24 +2

The Story: I'll 'fess up: During his brief auditions under Ted Nolan, I had no idea what Nielsen could bring to the table. Enter Scott Gordon, who told him he should aspire for greater things, and suddenly Nielsen was a revelation (to me) until one fateful night when Mottau tried to take his head off -- and nearly succeeded.

That Nielsen survived that hit with his head intact is a bonus, I suppose: A happy result of him ducking just in time. That the act of saving his skull entailed torquing his knee and ankle means we think we have an idea of what the Real Nielsen is, but we can't be sure.

The thing that sold it for me is Nielsen was flying around in several games, continuing the chemistry with Trent Hunter that started back in training camp, and was the best Islander on the ice the night Mottau leveled him. Nielsen admittedly came back less than 100% -- he was kept from playing for Denmark at the World Championships thanks to Isles medical staff concerns -- but his play leading up to that fateful night and his play at the end of the season told me what he could be: A very good passer, a guy with speed, some moves and a responsible two-way game (to say nothing of the backhand shootout move we've seen a time or five). The Ulf Dahlen comparisons aren't insane; if perfect-world Nielsen is your third-line center, you're doing well.

The Lyric (inspired by Frank Black's "Los Angeles"):

I met a Dane
He was a good Dane
Deking and scoring
From the third line-so-fine
Making me foreign, oh yeah-ahh-ah

[serious guitar riff]

I wanna live on Long Island
I wanna play on Long Island
Fabled home of Nystrom and Clark, yeah
Four Cups, Bossy and Trottier...

I wanna live on Long Island
It ain't Copenhagen
I wanna be where the kingdom has ended
Where instead there's a county executive

I wanna play on Long Island
For those Isles on Long Island
That club that's rocking the rebuild
Not the oldest monarchy in the world

(Sorry. Not sure where that came from, but Frank Black was in the head. And Nielsen's place as pioneer Danish NHLer is kind of cool.)

The Grade: So in this experimental summer of report cards at this site, I do still want to hear your grade of Nielsen's 2008-09, based on how well he met your preseason expectations. And since it's not scientific, we're changing mid-stream to a 10-point scale. (We can double the other players' 5-point-scale grades for comparison.)

But in comments, I'm also curious what you think of Nielsen and what you expect of him this year. For my money, if a perfect future world has John Tavares as a #1 center at his ceiling, and Josh Bailey as a two-way scoring center, then Nielsen as your #3 center is not too shabby at all. Bonus, he's signed cheap for 3 more seasons, although that means he'll be wanting real money at the same time Tavares will and one year after Kyle Okposo and Bailey will. Ah well, the price of (hoped for) success.