Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Rounder No Guarantee

His name is Robert Nilsson. He was drafted by the NY Islanders in 2003 in the first round, 15th overall. This year, the LA Kings took Derek Forbort at 15th. Peter Holland was drafted by Anaheim in 2009 and Erik Karlsson was drafted by Ottawa in 2008. Number 15, the middle of the pack and no guarantees.

Robert Nilsson played 53 games for the NY Islanders in 2005 and 29 games in Bridgeport. He scored 14 goals and 34 assists that year. Not too bad for a rookie season. But it wasn’t enough to keep him on the Islanders. It was, however, enough for Edmonton as they took the package of Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra and the 2007 draft pick for Captain Canada, Ryan Smith. There were those that said the Islanders overpaid for what turned out to be the rental of Ryan Smith, but Nilsson played only four games with the Edmonton Oilers and 19 in their AHL affiliate from March to April of 2007 after playing 50 in Bridgeport that season. Perhaps he didn’t even unpack that year and wasn't sure where he was waking up.

In 2007-2008 he played 71 games in Edmonton and only 5 in their AHL affiliate. It was his time to shine, and he did -- to a point. Nilsson scored 10 goals and 31 assists for Edmonton that season. Was he no longer the kid rumored to be moody with a less than stellar work ethic?

In April of 2008, the Oilers signed Nilsson to a three year contract. In January of 2009, he suffered a concussion. From looking at his stats page, it seems he suffered a few that kept him sidelined again in November and December of 2009 as well as April of 2010.

Last season he still managed to play 60 games but only came away with 27 points with 11 goals and was a -17. Nilsson has struggled with his consistency all along. Perhaps he hasn’t changed at all. Perhaps it is his work ethic or perhaps the spark of talent that everyone saw in 2003 never seemed to grow.

At only 25, he is owed $2.5 million for the last year of his contract. The Oilers have placed him on waivers to pave the way to buy him out. With only five years of NHL experience, would anyone think a team would be ready to buy out a young, first round draft pick?

It seems a shame that someone that had so much promise in 2003 would be in this position only seven years later. Let’s hope our draftees don’t end up with the same fate.

On the other end of the spectrum, with 14 years in the NHL and one more year left on his contract at $3 million, this first rounder of 1993 (11th overall) could face a similiar fate. Will he be put on waivers to pave the way to be bought out, will he continue to play in Bridgeport or will the NY Islanders be able to package him in a deal?

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