The Toronto Maple Leafs have selected 6’3, left-handed defenseman Andrew Nielsen with the 65th overall pick in the third round.
Nielsen had 7 goals and 24 points in 59 games on a poor Lethbridge Hurricanes team that won only 20 games last season. The highest scoring player on the team –undrafted Tyler Wong — had 56 points in 64 games, so playing on this team would not inflate anyone’s numbers as opposed to the Leafs pick of Travis Dermott.
A late bloomer, Nielsen was playing Midget AA before beginning to turn heads on the Red Deer ‘AAA’ midget Chiefs, eventually getting listed and signed by Lethbridge. Said Nielsen:
“I think I was overlooked sometimes, but I also think I’m a late-bloomer. I see myself as a late-bloomer. It took me a bit longer than some guys. I had some skating issues because my stride is a bit different and it makes me look a bit slow. I also never took my fitness training as seriously as I should have – that held me back and affected my skating. But now I train harder and am taking that seriously.”
In that same story he had a funny answer in regards to his favourite NHL team:
“The (Calgary) Flames. I like them because they are close to where I grew up, but also because of Dion Phaneuf. I was the water boy for the Red Deer Rebels from when I was six to 14. I got to know Dion then and thought he was a really nice guy and looked up to him. I started cheering for the Flames when he was there, but never switched over to Toronto because I don’t like the Leafs.”
Funny how things work out.
Mark Hunter’s Take
“A big strong defenceman out of Lethbridge who has good skills for a big man. He didn’t start early in his career, he played double B three or four years ago, and he’s really pushed his career ahead as a hockey player.”
Kyle Dubas’ Take
“Andrew played for Lethbridge and I didn’t see him play this year. Both Mark Hunter and Garth Malarchuk were huge fans of him. He’s a tough kid, he’s a big defender, but he’s also got offensive upside as well. Make him stronger and improve his mobility and he’s got a real good chance.”
Andrew Nielsen Scouting Reports
Hockey Prospectus ranked Nielsen 70th, here is their full write-up on him:
70) NIELSEN, ANDREW – LETHBRIDGE – WHL – D – 6’3? 207
Big, minute eating, responsible defenseman. Skates powerfully and energetically although looks heavy and clunky, particularly when moving side to side and laterally. Looks a bit stiff and uncomfortable on the ice, but doesn’t look out of place, shows periods of smoothness and surprising agility given his size. Possess a big, low shot, has an interesting swing – back swing goes high and he comes down on the puck quickly as if chopping at it. Moves puck up ice confidently, solid puck mover and looks poised with the puck when given time and space. Passes are tight and accurate, albeit safe, won’t go searching for a pass if the safe chip-out or glass-out play is available. Won’t lead the rush but is engaged when the opportunity to carry is there. Plays night to opponent on rush, doesn’t engage but uses well positioned stick to contain, can be quite suffocating, has a highly active stick and a good head in his own end. Will play physically if it’s the best option defensively and certainly doesn’t shy away, seems like he doesn’t need to play tough because of his stick work and suffocating defensive play. Plays a smart offensive blue line . Oddly overcommits at times and can be a step behind the play. Gives up on defensive assignments on occasion, should tighten up and work on overall consistency defensively because he certainly can be a defensive threat.
Lowetide ranked him 23rd among WHL skaters writing:
23. D Andrew Nielson, Lethbridge Hurricanes. Big two-way defender, his offense isn’t much but it’s impossible to tell how good he is because Hurricanes. He can pass the puck well and play defense. 6.03, 207.