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PPP's Top 25 Under 25 - #17 Tom Nilsson

Another year, another jump up the rankings for the rugged defensive defenceman out of Sweden, who comes across the pond to test himself in the AHL this season.

Tom Nilsson is one of the players that we've seen grow from afar as this countdown has progressed. He's progressed through the Swedish hockey system since being drafted in 2011 and we've seen him have success transitioning a more North American style game to Europe, moving up to the SHL last season.

Now the question is whether he can continue to have success with that same style of game coming over to North America. Tom Nilsson lands at number 17 on this year's countdown.

Birthyear: 1993-08-19 Birthplace: Tyresö, SWE
Age: 21 Nation: Sweden
Position: D Shoots: R
Height: 184 cm / 6'0" Weight: 83 kg / 183 lbs
Youth Team: Hanvikens SK Contract: 15/16
Drafted: 2011 round 4 #100 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs

Judging defensive defencemen is a lot tougher because of the nature of the skills that they bring. Physicality is great when it serves a purpose and, so far in his career, Nilsson's used his willingness to play the body as a means of protecting the defensive zone rather than just throwing a large number of hits after the puck has already moved on. But we've talked a little about using NHLe to help try and place some of the other guys on this countdown. When you contribute 4 points over a season, even with the caveat that Nilsson is a 20-year old playing in Sweden's top professional league, how do you translate that to the NHL? If you can't provide even occasional offence, is there a spot for you in the NHL?

Obviously getting a read on guys who've played exclusively in Sweden's system so far makes it difficult to get a really strong read on just where they are in their development. Which is why we made the decision to source opinions from people within the hockey community that have different opportunities to watch these sort of players to help us out.

Steve Burtch was able to reach out past the group of writers I recruited to assist us and thankfully Mattias Ek, a Hockey Writer for Expressen was willing to share his thoughts on Tom Nilsson.

Tom Nilsson has a mean streak to his physical play which is pretty rare over here, but the more reason to enjoy his style of playing! He has more skill playing the puck than Petter Granberg who is already in the Marlies. Nilsson has played for team Sweden but has yet to qualify for the World Championships. He's not far away, but that would probably mean that he needs a year or two in the American League.

Nilsson is one of three young defencemen expected to jump into the Maple Leafs pro system this season, joined by Matt Finn and Viktor Loov. This is one year removed from a season where four defenceman made the jump to the pros, with Morgan Rielly, going right to the NHL, and Stuart Percy, Andrew MacWilliam and Petter Granberg all joining the Marlies.

In fact, it's entirely possible that with T.J. Brennan moving on, and veteran minor leaguer Dylan Yeo not returning, that I just named the entire defence roster for the Toronto Marlies, except for another long-time farmhand in Korbinian Holzer. A group of Holzer, Granberg, MacWilliam, Percy, Finn, Loov and Nilsson would leave the Maple Leafs in a situation where every AHL defenceman is a home grown prospect. For all the bad things we've had to say about the Maple Leafs drafting and development in recent years, they have loaded up on capable defence prospects in recent years, and should have that on full display in the AHL and, with Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, the NHL as well.

Name birky BowerPower Burtch Chemmy clrkaitken Nikota PPP SkinnyFish 67 Sound FINAL RANK
Tom Nilsson 9 15 9 21 20 19 20 25 17 17
Previous Ranking 18 - 19 - 21 23 18 - 21 23

Nilsson's consistently risen up our list, as the rankings have gone on, going from near the bottom as an unknown recent late-draft, to on the periphery in 31st, to 23rd last season. He takes another step forward six spots, and now is a fixture on our list. If he's able to carve out a role for himself and continue to progress on the Marlies, Nilsson could see a fourth increase into the Top 15 (or higher).

Since we started doing these rankings I've had Nilsson higher on my list than most of the others. - birky

There's still been virtually no offense in his game at any level, which makes it hard to justify too high a ranking. He'll keep moving up slowly on my list as he moves up the team depth chart, just like Petter Granberg's done - clrkaitken

There wasn't really anywhere on this list for Nilsson to go, with a large gap between #16 and #18. He was a consensus choice for the lower end of the countdown, with the two Top 10 votes helping to move him up a little bit.