Photo credit:@abbotsfordcanucks on IG
Tristen Nielsen has quietly earned a spot in the Canucks’ call-up conversation
By Dave Hall1 month ago
Arshdeep Bains continues to bask in the Canuck fandom limelight as the Abbotsford Canucks’ leading scorer and representative for the AHL All-Star Game.
In most cases, the local Surrey Native is the name brought up by Canucks fans as the one deserving of call-up considerations, and for good reason.
Yet, a second undrafted gem from the Western Hockey League has quietly gone about his business, carving out a reputation as a consistent contributor and one of Abbotsford’s go-to tone-setters.
For your consideration: Tristen Nielsen.
During a three-year stint as a Vancouver Giant, Nielsen grew accustomed to playing a solid two-way game while contributing to the scoresheet from time to time. He finished his junior career with 175 points, firing at a 0.73 point-per-game clip through six years split between the Giants and the Calgary Hitmen.
In this, his third AHL season, Nielsen has seamlessly transitioned his hard-nosed style from the WHL to the professional ranks.
The 23-year-old forward came into this season off a solid sophomore campaign where he finished fourth in Abbotsford scoring, with 41 points over 64 games. This year, he is on pace to surpass that total, firing at a 46-point pace despite missing 11 games earlier in the season due to a concussion.
Player production rate chart courtesy of CanucksArmy’s Cody Severtson
Having netted nine goals and accumulated 18 points, he sits fifth in team scoring and is sixth by points-per-game (0.75). With 3 goals and 5 assists, Nielsen is second only to Bains’ 5g and 5a over the club’s last 10 games. He’s tied with Christian Wolanin and Max Sasson with the third-most primary assists (7) on the team.
5v5 Scoring leader chart courtesy of CanucksArmy’s Cody Severtson
It’s important to note that he has seen limited contributions to the power play, securing only two assists during man-advantage situations. Also worth noting is that the Canucks’ power play ranks dead last in the AHL, converting on just 13.1% of power play opportunities, 17 goals over 130 times on the man advantage.
While that stat isn’t great, the important takeaway is how Nielsen’s production has predominantly materialized at even strength, with fifteen out of his 18 points generated at 5-on-5. His 5v5 production is fourth behind Bains, Sasson, and Aatu Räty, but he shares the lead in 5v5 goalscoring with the Canucks other potential call-up option, Max Sasson, with nine goals each at 5v5. His 13 primary points at 5-on-5 are tied with frequent call-up option Linus Karlsson, second only to Sasson and Bains, who have 15 and 16 primary points at 5-on-5, respectively.
All this to say, he’s been an incredible driver of Abbotsford’s offence all season long.
Nielsen’s points aren’t merely crash-and-bang goals typical of an energy player, either. Instead, he has showcased the ability to create quick, smart, and flashy plays, whether through a pretty needle-threading pass or a highlight-reel backhand goal. His entertainment value is through the roof.
Of course, point totals tell only part of Nielsen’s contributions to this Canuck lineup.
Unfortunately, hits are not a stat tracked in the American Hockey League, which denies us the ability to paint a comprehensive picture of his game. However, if they were, you could confidently bet that he would not only be sitting in the top echelon on the team but likely leading the league.
Nielsen consistently brings much-needed tenacity to the team, especially when they require an emotional lift. He can singlehandedly swing the momentum of a game on what would be otherwise routine shifts on a Tuesday night. Embracing the battle is baked into his identity, and despite his 5-foot-10 stature, he never refuses to shy away from finishing his checks.
“Yeah, it’s always fun until you’ve got a 6-foot-8 guy [Curtis Douglas] trying to run you over,” Nielsen joked in good spirits following their 5-2 victory over Tucson this past Saturday.
“But it’s fun; I mean, that’s the game of hockey, and I think the physicality is just something that I kind of like,” Nielsen said. “It’s fun getting under people’s skin.”
It’s been an inconsistent stretch of hockey for the Canucks, with losses in five out of their last eight games, three of which were shutouts. However, even on quiet nights, the Fort St. John native is consistently available to set the tone to inject much-needed energy into his squad.
Nielsen, a true chameleon on the ice, excels in a multitude of roles each night—whether playing up the middle or on the wing, commanding power plays from the right wall, or seamlessly double-shifting between the top-six and third line. The 23-year-old consistently leaves nothing on the table, giving his all every time he steps onto the ice.
He hasn’t been utilized much on the penalty kill this season but has floated there in the past. If the big club is interested in giving him a cup of coffee—one that would be well-deserve in our opinion—the tell-tale sign will be if he earns some late-PK reps alongside a shorthanded staple like Chase Wouters, John Stevens, or Bains.
While he may not be the most acclaimed name in the pipeline, Nielsen’s ability to spark a club should undoubtedly be turning heads in Vancouver.
In a recent interview with Chris Faber of Canucks.com, when asked about the development going on in Abbotsford, Canucks GM Patrik Allvin said, “I’m very confident, based on the reports I get all the time from Ryan Johnson and the staff down there in Abbotsford, that several players are in the discussions for a call-up whenever that situation comes up. We’re excited to see those guys get a game or more up here. Absolutely.”
While typical all-up option responses list names such as Vasily Podkolzin, Arshdeep Bains, or Linus Karlsson, one can’t help but wonder if Nielsen’s bulldog “provide at any cost” playstyle has earned a look in the eyes of the powers that be.
Perhaps this season is a bit premature, but Nielsen has undoubtedly earned consideration for a cup of coffee at the NHL level.
Whether he is producing point totals or not, one thing you can take to the bank is his work ethic and dedication to playing within the structure that Rick Tocchet has instilled.
Who doesn’t love a good “feel good” story?
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