TLN Top Twenty Prospects: No. 16 – Tom Nilsson

Name: Tom Nilsson
Position: Defense
Hometown: Tyresö, SWE
Size: 6’0", 176lb
2013 Team: Mora (Allsvenskan)
Acquired: Draft – 4th round, 2011

To say I don’t know much about Tom Nilsson is an understatement. In fact I wonder how many people really have much of idea about him other than European scouts. Even with my occasional early morning viewing of Swedish Elite League games I can’t say anything about Nilsson since this will be the year he finally moves up from Sweden’s tier two league into what is likely the fourth best hockey league in the world. My lack of knowledge of Nilsson didn’t stop me from ranking him 17th on the prospect list, one behind where he actually wound up. I guess I’m trusting that since the Leafs seem to have a good eye for Swedish defensemen that trend would continue, but I’m going to hold off on anointing him the next Niklas Lidstrom.

What we know is that we like Carl Gunnarsson. A defensively sound player who moves the puck safely and made the most of his European sized ice training to make the most of learning to take away opportunities for his opponents. Really I assume that the plans for Nilsson, Granberg, and Lööv are to all become some form of Gunnarsson. Odds are one or two will be more Frogrenesque, but with late round prospects it’s essentially a numbers game anyway.

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So what have we seen of Nilsson? Well, he’s been in two World Juniors tournaments where he hasn’t looked out of place. He certainly demonstrated he’s a physical player which is nice, but for the most part he did what defensive defensemen are supposed to do. Get the puck and move it as far away from his goaltender as possible without turning it over. For his effort he got a gold medal in one tournament and a silver medal at another, so that’s nice for him. We can also say he looked decent at the Leafs Rookie Camp, but really that’s like saying I looked good at shinny last week. He tried hard and people noticed, but fundamentally it’s not a great way to assess progress.


Here’s what Par Mårts, head coach of the Swedish National Team, thinks about Nilsson:

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“Another interesting name that debuted in Tre Kronor in the spring, Tom Nilsson, 20, who is on loan from Toronto to Frölunda this season. – Tom has everything I think. When I had him the first time so they said to me that it was a defensive guy. He loves to compete and is hard to beat them in duels. But I also think he is very calm with the puck and skillful game. His dimensions at both ends of the track is pretty good actually. He may be rookie of the year.” 


What happens next with Nilsson? Well he’s definitely staying in Sweden this year, and the plan is for him to be in the Elite League which isn’t too shabby for a 20 year old. Assuming that goes well he could be a Marlie next season and from there who knows. As exciting as it is that Nilsson is moving forward he’s still three steps away from the NHL and if he gets there his style will probably limit him more to a second or third pairing role. 

Previously in the Top 20:

#17: Tony Cameranesi
#18: Connor Brown 
#19: Andrew MacWilliam
#20: David Broll 
Honourable Mentions

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  • I like this prospect.

    If I had to liken him to a similar player it would be Detroit’s Nicklas Kronwall. Here is the scouting report:

    “Nilsson is a hard-nosed defenseman. He doesn’t have a huge body, but will still play a very physical game and loves to hit. On top of his defensive ability, he can also contribute offensively. He skates very well and owns a hard shot.”

    Many called him the best defenceman for Team Sweden in their recent run which took them to the World Junior gold medal game.

    A couple more quick videos of Tom Nilsson hits, one is against first rounder and top prospect Filip Forsberg:

    You can see the reason for the Kronwall comparison.

    Even though we drafted Nilsson 100th in 2011, he’s got quite a pedigree with play for Team Sweden in the World Juniors and U 18’s. So unlike some of our other prospects, he has experience against the world’s best.

    He needs to put on weight while maintaining his mobility, but he could be a terrific sleeper pick. It would not surprise me if he eventually becomes a second pairing defenseman who logs lots of minutes…the kind of guy who hangs back and prevents goals. You don’t see him with big stats, but could be a very useful player even on the third pairing. Imagine if the Leafs had been able to draft a player like Kronwall in the 100th spot.

  • MaxPower417

    My question is, why is SHL the fourth best league? NHL, KHL and? SHL is better than AHL, that’s for sure so which league is in your opinion the third best league in the world?

  • MaxPower417

    This is a strange website.

    “Cant you read, he is touted as the next Lidstrom. My husnad AND I saw him twice when we went to Eurpoe, really has top pairing talent.”

    I did not write that.

    Somebody here likes to insert other names and make outlandish posts.

  • @Leafs Nation, I have changed my name Twice recently and find someone else using my handle. I am leaving the board for awhile until this stops. Please, If you see anyone using the name DP/Western DP, it’s a troll and not me.