Via a news release from his DEL team, Eisbaren Berlin, long-time NHL center Frans Nielsen will retire from professional hockey after representing his native Denmark at the upcoming 2022 IIHF World Championships. Nielsen played the 2021-22 campaign overseas in Germany after the Detroit Red Wings bought out the final year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Nielsen retires as the all-time leader among Danish NHLers in games played (925), goals (167), assists (306), and points (473). However, Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers is poised to break the goals mark next season, as he sits three back with 164. Nielsen’s, Lars Eller’s, Jannik Hansen’s, and Mikkel Boedker’s emergence in the late 2000s and early 2010s ushered in the most successful era in Danish hockey history, at least as it relates to the NHL. They paved the way for players such as Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand to take the leap and become the next faces of Denmark hockey.
Earlier this year, Nielsen was a flag bearer and alternate captain for Denmark as the men’s hockey team made its first Olympic appearance in history. Nielsen registered two goals and an assist in five games.
Drafted 87th overall in 2002 by the New York Islanders out of a stellar season in the Swedish top junior league, he developed into a skilled two-way forward and playmaker at his peak with the Islanders. One of the most underrated all-around players in the game during his prime, Nielsen broke into the NHL full-time in 2008-09 as a 24-year-old. He would spend 10 seasons total and 606 games in an Islanders uniform before departing for the Red Wings in free agency during the 2016 offseason.
Nielsen wouldn’t repeat his 20-goal, 50-point per year success in Detroit, but still managed 124 points across 319 games in Detroit.