clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Anders Nilsson gets the nod for Sweden at World Hockey Championships

One 6’6” Swedish goalie from the Vancouver Canucks will be playing for his country, and his name isn’t Jacob Markstrom.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers
Apr 7, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Mike Cammalleri (13) scores a shoot-out goal against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Anders Nilsson (31) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

One 6’6” Swedish goalie from the Vancouver Canucks will be playing for his country, and his name isn’t Jacob Markstrom.

It was announced over the weekend that Anders Nilsson will suit up for his country in the World Hockey Championships, which kick off next week in Denmark.

This wasn’t a stellar season for Nilsson by any means. After putting up impressive numbers while playing in a backup role for the Buffalo Sabres, Nilsson cratered after registering two shutouts in his first three starts for the Canucks.

NHL: New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks
Feb 28, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers forward Vladislav Namestnikov (90) scores against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Anders Nilsson (31) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It looked like Nilsson could challenge Markstrom for the starting job early on in the season. That quickly became an afterthought, as Markstrom ended up playing in 60 games for the Canucks.

While Markstrom obviously would have gotten the call to join Team Sweden ahead of Nilsson, there’s a good chance that Markstrom wanted to stay home and rest after a long season. Sixty games was easily the most Markstrom played in a season since he started in a combined 55 regular season and playoff games for the Comets in 2014-15.

As for Nilsson, he would only go on to win five of his next 21 starts. In that stretch he allowed 80 goals and posted a .896 save percentage. From December onward, Nilsson posted a record of 1-12-3 with a .891 save percentage. Yikes.

Confidence Boost for Nilsson?

For Nilsson to make this team, it means that current Swedish NHL goalies like Markstrom and Henrik Lundqvist turned down the invitation to travel to Denmark. Robin Lehner was also another goalie who would have turned down an invite.

Nilsson’s former teammate Linus Ullmark from the Sabres would have gotten the call over Nilsson, but Ullmark and the Rochester Americans are poised for a playoff run.

Chicago Blackhawks netminder Anton Forsberg would have been another option, but he was shut down for the season due to injury at the end of March.

Clearly, Nilsson was Sweden’s first choice. However, he remains the only goaltender currently named to the squad, and one of ten NHLers named to the team.

While his season didn’t go the way he intended, Nilsson now gets the chance to end his campaign on a good note as the current starter for Sweden. A strong finish could bring hope that Nilsson’s 2018-19 season may not be a lost cause.

He already reeks of confidence off the ice. Can he translate that on the ice?

At the moment, Nilsson has Utica Comets starting goaltender Thatcher Demko breathing down his neck for the backup spot. Demko has been lights out almost all season long, and he got a taste of NHL action against the Columbus Blue Jackets in late March.

While most would probably like to see Demko start next season in the NHL, there’s a sound argument to be made for letting Demko continue to dominate at the AHL level. Keep him on the Cory Schneider development path, if you will.

At the moment, you might even argue that Demko has a leg up on Nilsson for an NHL spot at the moment. He’s arguably already better than the 27-year-old Swede, and he’s clearly chomping at the bit for NHL action.

This all means that Nilsson has a monumental chance to change the debate about whether he belongs in the NHL. It starts with helping Sweden defend their gold medal at the World Championships, which kick off on Friday, May 4th.