In a century where the Edmonton Oilers spent their days and nights mishandling talent, it’s wildly ironic to ponder this possibility: Solving the goalie problem by trading a distant bell draft pick. Anders Nilsson is still obscure—most Edmontonians wouldn’t recognize him at the local donair shop—but the young man has a glorious chance to win a starting job and seal off an area of unbelievable weakness in this city. His ranking should be regarded as a combination of talent and opportunity.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 7 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: D Jeff Woywitka (278)
- December 2005: L Alexei Mikhnov (2)
- December 2006: G Devan Dubnyk (249)
- December 2007: C Riley Nash (193)
- December 2008: D Jeff Petry (335)
- December 2009: D Jeff Petry (335)
- December 2010: C Tyler Pitlick (27)
- December 2011: D Martin Gernat (0)
- December 2012: C Jujhar Khaira (0)
- December 2013: D Anton Belov (57)
The eye rolls over over these names and the brain informs us about promising careers sent away, muscle-building products apparently misused in exotic places like Kosice, and college men judged to be unable to think on their feet. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what a century to be alive!
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Elite Prospects: A huge goaltender that is technically skilled. Nilsson has good hockey smarts plays with calmness and has good mental strength. Challenges the shooters and has been very consistent during his career, rarely having bad games. Furthermore, he is athletic and quite agile. Source
- The Goalie Guild: Nilsson was really challenged in his homeland this season, as he doubled his minutes played for Lulea’s junior team in Sweden, jumping from 16 in 2007 to 37 games played in 2008. But he also doubled his shutouts (two to four) and improved his goals against average and save percentage just slightly. For a goalie that was ranked 5th in European goalie prospects available, being the first choice in Round 3 is an amazing accomplishment for Nilsson. Source
- Anders Nilsson: “I have done for three years in the AHL and I do not think it would be good for my development to play a fourth year in the AHL, That’s what I’ve said to them, since we have not started to go into contract negotiations.” (this was before the trade, he’s referencing the Blackhawks)
- Goalie guru Kevin Woodley: “His size is his strength. He has a really good athletic base, he moves very well for his size. That is the strength, the weakness, at least early in his career in the NHL was that he moved too much. When you are that big and that long and you move too much you are opening up holes. Pucks go through you as opposed to using your size effectively, and you tend to open up and create more holes than you need to.” Source
PREVIOUS TOP 20 RANKING
- Summer 2015: No. 22
- Winter 2015: No. 7
SUMMER 2015 COMMENTS
- Chiarelli on Anders Nilsson: “He’s a big goalie. He might not have been dealt the greatest cards when he came over (to North America). He had a strong year in the KHL. He had an average World Championships. I saw him in one game when I went over there. He’s still young for a goalie. He was excited to hear that he has a new start. The bottom line is there is going to be competition. There is going to be competition amongst the goalies and that’s why. We want that. It gives us insurance and it gives us competition.” Source
- Lowetide: A .936 save percentage in the back yard is exciting, this guy did it in the KHL. He might not be the second coming of Tim Thomas, but this is at the very least a compelling curio for Oilers camp. Source
If I'm the Oilers I keep rolling with Anders Nilsson… In my mind the #Oilers really have something here with him.
— Travis McCurdy (@traviscorp) November 7, 2015
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey: Backup Anders Nilsson hasn’t exactly set the world on fire either, although he has sprinkled in a few strong games along the way. His last two appearances saw him post save percentages of .810 and .852 as he was lit up for 8 goals on 48 shots in a pair of Edmonton defeats. His own seasonal save percentage has dipped below the .900 mark to .897, barely ahead of Talbot’s .890. Source
- Lowetide: De facto starter until further notice, he’ll need to have a terrible outing to lose the crease in my opinion. He’s a lesson to NHL teams, too. Unless Carey Price is available, chances are there’s a reasonable goalie swaying in the wind somewhere and available for a single Coughlin. Source
— Viasat Hockey (@ViasatHockeySE) November 12, 2015
Anders Nilsson owns an even-strength SP of .910 currently, that’s 16 points in front of Cam Talbot and ranks No. 31 among goalies with nine or more starts this season. That, my friends, is the definition of reaching for a positive. Why then does Nilsson rank No. 7 on the prospect list? Part of it is opportunity and the other part is his performance in recent games. Nilsson’s save percentages in his last five games are .939, .919, .810 (flu game against ARI), .852 (Hawks) and .950. I’m not convinced he’s a better goalie than Cam Talbot, in fact I think Talbot is clearly a better one based on resume. Doesn’t matter.
Between now and April, Anders Nilsson is going to get his opportunity and if he performs well enough it could mean a contract and NHL employment. Now, today, this instant, Todd McLellan is looking for his goalie, and his goalie had a .950 SP in the last game played by Edmonton. Goal is a weird position, and Nilsson’s current status has extreme value.
— National Post (@nationalpost) November 18, 2015
One other thing: Nilsson’s pro career has one giant asterisk in the middle, and it pertains to B-12 and you can read a little about it here. If we place that illness inside his career numbers it creates a dip in performance that may end up helping the Oilers in a big way.
- 2009-10 (Age 19) 27GP, .896 (SEL)
- 2010-11 (Age 20) 31GP, .918 (SEL)
- 2011-12 (Age 21) 25GP, .921 (AHL)
- 2011-12 (Age 21) 4GP, .910 NHL
- 2012-13 (Age 22) 21GP, .899 (AHL)*
- 2012-13 (Age 22) 19GP, .896 NHL*
- 2013-14 (Age 23) 29GP, .901 (AHL)
- 2013-14 (Age 23) 19GP, .896 NHL
- 2014-15 (Age 24) 38GP, .936 KHL
- 2015-16 (Age 25) 9GP, .901 NHL
The 2012-13 season saw a massive fall in performance and he did not recover in the following season. Nilsson’s KHL performance last season got him to Edmonton and he’s in a battle for NHL employment currently. The two seasons that followed his impressive first NA season may have been impacted by his illness and recovery. If that is in fact the case, we see a very nice progression from first year pro through this season and Edmonton may have caught lightning in a bottle. Once again, I want to stress, these are early days and betting on goalies is a very dangerous game.
THE 2009 DRAFT
- Magnus Paajarvi, No. 10 overall. Speedy winger is back in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and seems to have some traction. Talented player who can’t score enough to stay in the lineup, but he has a chance now and it could be his last, best, one. No longer in the organization.
- Anton Lander, No. 40 overall. Checking center who exploded on the NA scene in 2011 and won a job in the every day lineup. He took a long time to find his way in the AHL, but had been pushing for some time when he finally got his chance under Todd Nelson a little over a year ago. Currently on the NHL roster and doing some good things, but the offense has dried up and it’s a concern. Graduated.
- Anders Nilsson, No. 62 overall. Drafted by the Islanders, acquired this summer by Peter Chiarelli. Picked up for very little, he could be that himself a year from now. Nilsson’s emergence could be something of value or he could be a flash in the pan. No. 7 prospect, Winter 2015.
- Troy Hesketh, No. 71 overall. One of the last of the family of picks who were trumpeted as being “guys New Jersey was looking at”, Hesketh never made it out of the USHL.
- Cameron Abney, No. 82 overall. Enforcer who played in Bakersfield last season, his AHL career games played is 18 and holding.
- Kyle Bigos, No. 99 overall. Playing in Edinburgh this season.
- Toni Rajala, No. 101 overall. Scoring well in the Swedish Elite League, just shy of a point-per-game.
- Olivier Roy, No. 133 overall. Playing in Austria this season, he was one of the players involved in the Brossoit-Smid deal.