The Detroit Red Wings do not have a clear superstar on their roster, but one of theirs will be represented among (most of) the best in the NHL on All-Star Weekend at the end of this month in Los Angeles.
Frans Nielsen is the 2017 Detroit Red Wings All-Star.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) January 10, 2017
Frans Nielsen to Represent Detroit Red Wings at All-Star Game
Due to the rule that every team from each division must be represented in the game and the fact that three centers are needed for 3-on-3 with two picked in Auston Matthews from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vincent Trocheck from the Florida Panthers, it was natural for the selection of a third middleman to represent Detroit. Nielsen has put up some modest offensive numbers, scoring eight goals and 22 points, but leads the league’s worst power play in power play points with seven assists. Considering the Red Wings have the 25th ranked offense in the league, he’s been a very important cog, with the departure of Pavel Datsyuk having a grave effect on the team’s flow and confidence.
Nielsen’s Impact Under the Radar
Nielsen has also had a pretty impressive season in the face-off dot, winning nearly 60% on the man advantage and 54.5% at even strength on over 615 face-offs taken, ranking 11th in the league among those who have taken at least 600. Continuing with special teams, he leads all Detroit forwards in short-handed ice time at 76:08 and 5th on the team overall in 5-on-4 play TOI with 104:26 logged.
The 32-year old Dane’s efforts have helped a penalty kill that struggled through much of last season rise to ninth overall in the league this year, spending times in the top five. The Red Wings as a team had two shorthanded goals all of last season, and Nielsen has two himself this campaign. Nielsen is also one of the few Red Wings to hover around 50% in terms of Corsi-for percentage logging a minimum of 25 games, trailing only each member of the top line in Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg, and the Godsend himself Anthony Mantha. His expected goals-for per 60 minutes while he is on the ice ranks fifth on the team as well at 2.64.
As a team, the only other Red Wings skaters that come to mind that have been consistent producers of offense and guidance for the team have been Thomas Vanek and Anthony Mantha. All the former has done is notch 10 goals and 25 points in only 29 games due to a groin injury, lead the Red Wings in power play goals with three, in points-per-game at a 0.86 rate, and expected goals-for per 60 minutes while he is on the ice at 3.03 when the group as a whole scores 2.38 per contest. Mantha has been another go-to scorer that the Wings have needed, tying for the team lead in goals with 11 and pacing the group in possession at 54.58%, raising Zetterberg from a 46.97% rating in the first 15 games to an impressive 54.70% rating in 25 games since. As said before however, the game has its rules and structure now with a condensed divisional setup to play a 3-on-3 tournament.
Overall, the pick, though it may stir debate as it has for many players in each division, is a solid one with the circumstances. For Nielsen, it must be a great thrill being such an underrated talent for so long on Long Island to finally get recognition in a league event like this. He’s paved the way for inspiring players from Denmark to come into the NHL leading all Danes in games played (646), goals (127), and points (349), but has done so relatively out of the spotlight.
He’ll be in one at the end of this month in a city that is famous for putting one in it.