Breaking Barriers with Frans Nielsen
By Corey Witt
(July 2) Years ago, Frans Nielsen set a goal. Last year, he realized
that his goal is possible to achieve. This year, he can now see that
his goal is within reach.
With that said, the Islander prospect's goal is to become the first
Danish-born hockey player to play in the NHL.
For his age, Nielsen is one of the best hockey players that the
country of Denmark has ever seen. His skills out-grew the level of
competition that Denmark's hockey leagues could provide. Nielsen is
so talented that the Dane started to play in the Swedish Elite League
at age 17.
This past season, his third with the Malmo IF Redhawks, he broke out
and had his best year to date. In 50 games with Malmo, Nielsen
tallied nine goals and seven assists for 16 points, almost doubling
his production from a season ago. It was a season that could be a
cornerstone to his hockey career.
"I had a great season in Sweden and a great World Championship, too,"
said Nielsen. "I got a lot stronger in the past year and I felt
But what happened to the Islanders' 2002 third round draft pick from
the 2002-03 season to the next? Well, last summer's prospect
conditioning camp could be one reason. Nielsen says that it all
started once he got back to Europe after last summer's camp
"I just played my game this season," said Nielsen. "I got a lot more
ice-time and I got better. But it started in September and October
and it went on [from there]. I got a lot stronger with my skating and
with my shooting. But I still need to get stronger with my shooting,
skating, and everything else."
At the tender age of 20, Nielsen's hockey career is still in its
infancy. The 6-1, 180-pound forward still has some growing to do, but
Nielsen already knows what type of hockey player he is and what type
he wants to be.
"I would say I'm a playmaker," said Nielsen. "I like to handle the
puck and pass the puck. I want to have the puck when I play so I make
the passes to my teammates."
If you combine Nielsen's successful season in the Swedish Elite
League with his strong performance at the recently-completed 2004
Hockey World Championships, where he led the Dane's to a win in the
Preliminary Round and tallied three assists in six games, the
springboard is there for the Islander prospect. He's not ready to
make the jump over the pond to North America quite yet, but Nielsen
is certainly closing in on his aspiration of wearing an NHL sweater.
"I'm getting close to my goal," Nielsen said of playing in the
NHL. "It's where I want to be. I have fun with Malmo, but I want to
be a NHL player."
Nielsen has a lot of weight on his shoulders. In fact, it's the
weight of the aspirations of the entire country of Denmark. The
playmaking winger is becoming a well-known player with Malmo in the
Swedish Elite League and his native countrymen are waiting for his
arrival in the NHL. He might need to add a few pounds of muscle to
his body frame, but playing in the world's most competitive hockey
league is never off his mind. Or the minds of the Danish people for
"I think many Danish people expect me to make the NHL, especially
after the World Championship," said Nielsen. "And after the World
Championships, I think I can play with some NHL players in [a few
years]. People just expect me to make it as the first Dane [in the
NHL] and I think can do it some day."