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Frans Nielsen: Breakout Islander for 2010-2011. | August

He’s automatic in the shootout, reliable on defense and maybe the best passer on the team. When talking about the Islanders young core, Frans Nielsen is still usually overlooked. It’s true he’s not as young as the Tavares, Okposo, Bailey group, but at 26, Nielsen is still only entering his third full NHL season. His offensive game continues to show growth while he has quietly become one of the leagues best defensive centers. This upcoming season, Frans Nielsen won’t be an islander secret anymore.

The forehand to backhand move that’s befuddled goalies on breakaways and shootout attempts (11-19 on SO attempts over the past 3 years) is Nielsen’s biggest weapon, but it’s his passing that’s caught my attention. His ability to move the puck up the ice and make a crisp pass into the offensive zone goes overlooked if you’re not paying attention. His ability to see the ice and make the smart and safe play is something a young team needs. Thirty Eight points may not look all that impressive, but when you consider he spends a majority of the time on the third line at even strength, you realize there’s much room for the numbers to climb. For a team that finished 28th in goals against, the young Dane’s +4 is very impressive, and when you factor in Nielsen usually played against the other teams top scorers, you realize how important he is.

Frans should see increased ice-time and more power play time in the 10-11 season, giving his offensive game a chance to prosper. On the defensive side, he will continue to be one of the Isles top shutdown forwards. In just is third full season as a NHL regular, the rest of the league will find out what most Islanders fans already know, Frans Nielsen is a darn good hockey player.