The Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a youth movement. So, let’s take a look at the club’s top youngsters!
If the Vancouver Canucks want to make their ‘rebuild on the fly’ work, they need a strong foundation of young roster players. We all know the Bo Horvats and Ben Huttons of the team, but what’s after that? How are things for the AHL Utica Comets and what can we expect from the Canucks’ next crop of youngsters?
To answer those questions, our staff ranked all signed Vancouver Canucks players under the age of 25. After compiling a list of the top 10 Canucks prospects recently, this is all about who can help today. And guess what, the Canucks only have a total of 26 players under 25 signed and playing in North America right now.
After covering No. 25, Evan McEneny, yesterday, it is time to look at summer acquisition Tom Nilsson.
#24 – D Tom Nilsson
Team: Utica Comets (AHL)
NHL Experience: 0 Games
How He Got Here
Tom Nilsson was originally drafted 100th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011. A native of Sweden, he stayed at home for three more years, playing in the junior league SuperElit, the second-tier pro league Allsvenskan and the top-tier SHL. In 2014, he decided to make the move to North America, joining the Toronto Marlies.
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After 44 games with the Marlies, Nilsson was traded to the New York Islanders in the deal that sent forward Michael Grabner to Toronto. However, Nilsson’s contract was mutually terminated before the season started, allowing Nilsson to return home. He played a very successful 2015-16 season with the Frolunda Indians, including a Champions Hockey League title.
The Canucks then signed him as an unrestricted free agent this summer. It is a curious move for Nilsson, as he obviously didn’t want to be in North America just a year ago. Is he hoping to crack Vancouver’s NHL roster? Did he not want to be a part of the Islanders organization? Did he simply change his mind over the year? We might never find out.
Where He Is Today
Nilsson does not have a huge frame, but he likes to be physical and that could be one of the reasons why Jim Benning likes him. Nikita Tryamkin, Andrey Pedan, Erik Gudbranson and Tom Nilsson are all very physical players, and while the analytics community will do their best to convince you those players are no good, the Canucks seem to like them.
Vancouver added Tryamkin late last season and followed that up with the acquisitions of Gudbranson, Philip Larsen and Troy Stecher. In addition, Jordan Subban played an outstanding rookie season with the Comets. So, Nilsson definitely shouldn’t expect to make the Canucks out of training camp. His focus should be on making an impression in Utica to get top-four minutes there.
Where He’s Headed
The Vancouver Canucks are set on the right side with Chris Tanev, Gudbranson, Larsen, Tryamkin and Alex Biega. The Utica Comets are in a similar situation, having Subban and Stecher set to play top-four minutes, leaving only a bottom-pairing role with penalty-killing minutes for Nilsson.
Nilsson will need a strong training camp and an even better season if he wants to stick around. He is on a standard one-year deal, so he cannot be sent to the ECHL Alaska Aces without his consent, but that seems to be the only positive for him right now.
Then again, he’s only 22 and a lot can happen over the next years. If he plays a strong season in Utica, he might sign another contract next year and work his way up to become a strong bottom-pairing NHL player in Vancouver.
One thing is clear, though: if he goes back to Sweden after this season, he likely won’t return again.