Meet a New Canuck: Anders Nilsson
The Canucks made a splash in free agency this summer, adding a number of players to their 29th-placed roster. Among those is Swedish netminder Anders Nilsson. While perhaps not of the same caliber of centre Sam Gagner, or even defender Michael Del Zotto, Nilsson is nonetheless worth taking note of.
After having lost Ryan Miller in free agency to the Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks went out and signed Nilsson to a two-year, $5 million contract to serve as a platoon to likely-starter Jacob Markstrom. Nilsson was drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round, 62nd overall, of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and has since been a member of three different organizations prior to signing in Vancouver – the Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Buffalo Sabres. His career numbers over that time, 78 games, aren’t spectacular, with a goals-against-average of 2.94 and a save percentage of .923. However, it’s his more recent results that are a bit more exciting.
In 26 games last season with the Buffalo Sabres, Nilsson put up a .923 save percentage, as well as a goals-against-average of 2.67. Considering the Sabres finished 26th overall in the league standings, 21st in goals against, and 26th in CorsiFor%, those numbers come off as exceptional. While hardly an enormous sample size, it is certainly enough to warrant taking a gamble on, especially one that is relatively low-risk.
This is not the first time that Nilsson and Markstrom have worked together as a tandem. In 2010 at the World Junior Hockey Championships, Nilsson backed up Markstrom for Team Sweden, playing in one game at the tournament. Though Nilsson allowed three goals in his one start, the team did end up taking home a bronze medal.
While it seems probable that Markstrom will be handed the starter’s job off the bat, his resume isn’t exactly sterling: over the course of 107 NHL contests, he has put up a 2.91 goal-against-average, and a save percentage of .906. Additionally, throughout his Canucks tenure, he’s never put up a save percentage higher than .915, which is what he managed in 32 games in 2015-16. Should the 27-year-old falter early, the door will be wide open for Nilsson to take the job as the team’s number one goaltender.
The signing of Nilsson may not have been the flashiest move of the summer, but it has the potential to be one that pays off in the long run.