Name: Tom Nilsson
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.
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.
“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: