15. Kent Nilsson
Nilsson, a 6’1", 195 lb. center from Nynashamn, Sweden, was born on August 31st, 1956. The Atlanta Flames chose him in the fourth round of the NHL Amateur Draft with the 64th overall selection. Before joining the Flames in 1979-80, Nilsson played with Djurgardens IF Stockholm (Sweden, 64 games, 41 goals, 38 assists), AIK (Sweden, 36 games, 30 goals, 18 assists), Orebro IK (Sweden, seven games, one goal, one assist), and the Winnipeg Jets (WHA, 158 games, 81 goals, 133 assists).
Nilsson appeared in 80 contests for the Flames for their last season in Atlanta. He led the team in every offensive category, including 40 goals on 217 shots, 53 assists, and a 7.3 point share. He also had a minus-3 rating and earned 10 penalty minutes. He got to play in the all-star game as a rookie, although he did not get any consideration for the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Flames posted an overall 35-32-13 record, earning 83 points and finishing fourth in the Patrick Division. They lost in the Preliminary Round of the playoffs to the New York Rangers, three-games-to-one. Nilsson disappeared, scoring zero points while appearing in every game.
Nilsson posted the best offensive numbers of his considerably offensive-minded career in 1980-81. He again appeared in every Flames contest, totaling 80 games and scoring 49 goals on 217 shots, a 22.6% shot success rate. He also led the team with eight game winning goals, 82 points, a team-record 131 points, and a point share total of 10.9, earning a spot in the all-star game. He had a plus-15 rating and a career high 26 penalty minutes. The Flames earned 92 points on the strength of a 39-27-14 record and a third place finish in the Patrick Division. They then won their first ever playoff series, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in three straight to open the postseason. They followed it up with another series win, a seven game triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers before losing in six contests to the Minnesota North Stars. Nilsson ranked fifth on the team in the playoffs with 12 points on three goals and nine assists.
In 1981-82, Nilsson missed nearly half the season with an injury, appearing in 41. He scored a team-fourth 26 goals on 103 shots to lead the team with a 25.2% shot success rate, adding 29 assists, a minus-20 rating, eight penalty minutes, and 3.8 point shares. The Flames went 29-34-17, good for 75 points and a third place finish in the Smythe Division. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Vancouver Canucks in three straight games. Nilsson earned three assists in the short series.
1982-83 would see Nilsson score 46 goals (including six game winners) on 217 shots with a team-leading 58 assists, a plus-5 rating, and 10 penalty minutes. He scored four of Calgary’s seven short-handed markers on the season, ranking ninth in the NHL. The club finished with a 32-34-14 record, earning a berth in the postseason with a second seed in the Smythe Division. They defeated the Canucks three-games-to-one before eliminating the Oilers in five games. Nilsson had a goal and 11 assists to lead the Flames.
Nilsson had 80 points overall in 67 games for Calgary, with 31 goals (on 181 shots) along with 49 assists in 1983-84. He had a minus-24 rating, 22 penalty minutes, and an NHL-fourth nine short handed goals. He also led the Flames with five game winning markers. His 5.3 point shares ranked him second on the forward corps. The Flames again finished second in the Smythe Division, going 34-32-14. They defeated the Canucks in four before losing to the Oilers in seven contests. Nilsson did not appear in the playoffs.
In 1984-85, Nilsson led all forwards with 7.0 point shares, leading the Flames with 99 points, 37 goals (on 201 shots), 62 assists, and three shorthanded goals. He also had three game winners, a minus-4 rating, and 14 penalty minutes. Calgary posted a 41-27-12 record on their way to their 10th consecutive postseason. They lost to the Jets, three-games-to-one in the opening round, Nilsson earned one assist through the series.
During the 1985 offseason, the Flames traded Nilsson with a third round pick (Brad Turner) to the North Stars for two second round picks (Joe Nieuwendyk and Stephane Matteau). He played two seasons in Minnesota (105 games, 29 goals, 77 assists), ending with a trade to the Oilers during the 1986-87 campaign (17 games, five goals, 12 assists). He followed with time in Italy (Bolzano HC, 35 games, 60 goals, 72 assists), Sweden (Djurgardens IF Stockholm, 75 games, 32 goals, 41 assists), Switzerland (Kloten, three seasons, 72 goals, 82 assists), and Austria (Graz EC, 57 games, 23 goals, 42 assists). He rejoined the Oilers for six games in 1994-95, scoring a single goal with a minus-5 rating.
All-Time Statline: 425 games, 229 goals, 333 assists, minus-31 rating, 90 penalty minutes, 42.95 point shares.