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NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Andrew Nielsen

Austin Manak Avatar
June 5, 2015

 

Get to know Andrew Nielsen

Date of Birth: 11/13/1996
Place of Birth: Red Deer, AB, CAN
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 207 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Defenseman
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes

Andrew Nielsen is a Canadian defenseman who currently anchors the Lethbridge Hurricanes blue-line in the WHL. Coupling great size with decent skating and puck moving skills, Nielsen has the foundation necessary to potentially reach the next level.

Rated as the 52nd best North American skater by CSS, and a much more modest 122nd overall player by Future Considerations, Nielsen looks to be a project player on a typical four-year development plan for defenseman before reaching the NHL.

Offensive impact doesn’t appear to be Nielsen’s bread-and-butter, but as a key figure on a so-so Hurricanes squad, he was able to fill up the scoresheet fairly well this past season. He put up 7 goals and 24 points in 59 games, while seeing time on the power play.

Nielsen doesn’t jump out at you when you watch him play, but his size coupled with his ability to play a sound defensive-minded game will make him an attractive mid-round flier on draft day. He has the makings of a late-bloomer, as highlighted by this article written earlier this year.

Statistics

What Scouts See

Elite Prospects, Curtis Joe

A brutish, big-bodied defenseman that has the size, willingness to give up the body, and physical maturity to make a difference on the ice. Establishes an imposing presence when bearing down on opposing players; does not allow any time or space, and can cause turnovers easily. Has a good eye and is able to make crisp, accurate passes to teammates; also possesses a hard shot.

While his skating could be improved, he isn’t immobile and can get around the ice post haste. All-in-all, a physical two-way defender who establishes pressure on the opposition and can also provide offensive support.

What BSN Avalanche Sees

Nielsen’s size is what is getting him noticed, and on the NHL draft radar. He has the frame and mass to be an intimidating presence in his own zone, and potentially develop into a shut-down type guy at the NHL level.

Cavalier body-checking isn’t Nielsen’s game, who instead likes to use his size to subtly control players down low. He will finish his checks, but in my viewings, I didn’t see him as a guy who goes out of his way to set a physical tone. That said, he isn’t afraid to drop the mitts to stand up for his teammates.

As a skater, Nielsen does well for a guy his size. He lacks the quick footwork necessary to truly differentiate himself from his peers, but is able to close gaps and get back into position with a powerful stride.

I liked certain aspects of Nielsen’s puck-moving ability, and am a bit worrisome about others. When he has time and space, he makes crisp tape-to-tape passes. However, I noticed a tendency to make poor decisions when under pressure or facing a heavy forecheck.

I attribute his weakness when under pressure to limited stick-handling ability and skating agility, which limits his zone-exit options. At times, he will play it safe and chip it up the boards, but if he tries to do anything more it can be a risky endeavor.

He is praised for having an above average shot, although at times his release is a little sluggish. If he can learn to pull the trigger a bit quicker, while maintaining accuracy, it could be a real weapon for him. Ultimately, I don’t view him as a PP quarterback, but his offensive skills are good enough that he could see time as a point-man on a second PP unit.

Overall, he looks like the type of guy who could turn into a solid two-way defenseman who leans more toward being a stay-at-home player. His size and reach will be assets for him going forward, and a good shot and some puck moving ability make him more attractive than a pure defensive bruiser would be, especially as puck possession becomes a more valuable commodity in the NHL.

Highlights

NHL Potential

I view Nielsen as a bottom-pairing type player at the NHL level, with some top-four upside depending on his development track. He’s certainly a project, and will need to improve his overall game before the NHL dream is a reality.

He has some offensive tools, but at this point I think his primary impact will be on the defensive side of the ice. Any offensive production would be considered a bonus.

Expected Draft Position

I don’t see any attributes that really stand out as exceptional when watching Andrew Nielsen play the game. Based on that and the fact that he doesn’t crack the top-100 overall players in a lot of draft-boards, such as Craig’s list and Future Considerations, I’d expect Nielsen to come off the board anywhere after the 4th round begins.

His attitude and work ethic are things that NHL teams are sure to notice. I think teams will like the improvements Nielsen has made in his game in the past year to put himself in a position to be drafted.

How Would Nielsen Fit in the Avalanche Organization?

Chris Bigras, Duncan Siemens, and Mason Geertsen are currently stand-out left-handed defenseman prospects in the Avalanche system. A lefty himself, Nielsen would add further depth to that position for the organization.

Nielsen figures to have plenty of development time before he would have a chance of playing in the NHL, although he already has a lot of competition in the fold. I’d expect him to play two more years in the WHL, before getting a verdict on a professional contract. If signed, unless some major unexpected strides are taken, he’ll likely get a couple of seasons worth of seasoning in San Antonio.

I would view Nielsen as a nice luxury pick late in the draft, depending on how the board falls. I wouldn’t consider adding a player like him a priority, but if an opportunity to grab him late as a value-selection presents itself, bolstering defensive depth in the farm is never a bad idea.

 

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