The Islanders have always respected what veteran center Frans Nielsen can do on the ice. The Danish center has established himself as a consistent, two-way player during his nearly decade-long NHL career. But this season, Nielsen is putting up more points than he usually did in the past. He is presently second on the team with eight goals and third on the club with 14 points.
As usual, the soft-spoken Nielsen downplayed his own contributions to his recent success. “I try to play the same game and shoot pucks and they’re going in for me right now. There’s nothing I’m trying to do differently, really.”
While Nielsen remains modest, his teammates can see the reasons for his success. “He’s always had a gift for scoring goals and making plays and getting points,” explained Anders Lee, who was recently placed on a line with Nielsen and Josh Bailey. “He’s doing everything right now for us, the penalty kill, the power play.”
Nielsen’s versatility is important to the team. In addition to his regular shift, he is capable of contributing in so many ways. Nielsen has scored four points on the power play and already has a shorthanded goal as well. He can match up against opposing team’s best offensive players and slow them down and he can provide offense. He is third on the team with 50 shots on goal through 19 games.
In addition to his contributions on the ice, Nielsen is one of the Islanders’ leaders in the locker room. “He’s a quiet leader,” Bailey said. “He never really says too much he just goes about his business. He’s always a positive guy and always a guy who’s cheering for his teammates and all around just a great team guy and a great guy to have on your team.”
The new line has clicked well, although Isles head coach Jack Capuano feels they could play even better.
Nielsen is quick to credit his linemates. “Josh is an incredibly smart player, he makes good plays,” Nielsen said. “The same for Anders, but he has a little more grit to his game. He’ll be going to the net, so it’s a good mix.”
Bailey enjoys playing with Nielsen. “He does his thing every night. He’s a real consistent player,” Bailey explained. “It’s always good to see a guy like that get rewarded. He means a lot to our team in the dressing room and on the ice. He’s kind of a mister everything for us.”
Nielsen has three goals and five points in his last five games. He and his linemates are each plus-three in the past two games.
“We’ve had some good opportunities the past few games, and I feel like we’re on the cusp of having a breakout night for sure,” Bailey added.
Capuano is not surprised by Nielsen’s fast start to the season offensively. “He does the right things. If there’s one guy on our team who leads by example in all three zones, it’s him, with and without the puck,” Capuano said. “If you do good things, good things happen. It doesn’t surprise me that the puck is going in the net for him.”
Whether or not Nielsen keeps up this career-best offensive pace or not, his contributions to the team are important.
“He’s such a good, all-around player,” Lee added. “He’s definitely a cornerstone of our team.”