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15 Days Until The Season Begins

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Cam Lewis
6 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 15 we have Kent Nilsson, a Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames star who won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers.
Nilsson broke into Sweden’s top league playing for Djurgardens IF as a 17-year-old in 1973-74 and quickly developed into one of the top players. He tied for the league lead in scoring in 1975-76 and switched teams to AIK for 1976-77 and finished fourth in both goals and points.
The Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association had leaned heavily into signing players from Sweden and Nillson joined the likes of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson and came overseas to continue his career. Nilsson scored 42 goals and 107 points in his first season in North America and was awarded the WHA’s Lou Kaplan Trophy for the league’s top rookie.
Hedberg and Nilsson left Winnipeg to join the New York Rangers the following off-season and the Jets saw their record drop from 50-28-2 in 1977-78 to 39-35-6 in 1978-79. Despite the mediocre results during the season, the Jets swept the Quebec Nordiques in the first round of the playoffs and beat Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers in the Avco Cup Final.
The Jets were among the four WHA teams to be absorbed into the NHL but they lost Nilsson’s rights because the Atlanta Flames had drafted him with the 64th overall pick in the 1976 draft. Nilsson made his NHL debut for Atlanta in 1979-80 and led the team with 40 goals and 93 points.
The Flames lost to New York in the first round of the playoffs and then packed up and moved north. Nilsson had a huge first season in Calgary. He scored 49 goals and 131 points in 1980-81, which still stands in the all-time record books as the most assists and points by a Flame in a single season.
Nilsson spent a few more seasons in Calgary before the Flames moved him to the Minnesota North Stars for a couple of draft picks, one of which was used to select Joe Nieuwendyk. The North Stars lost in the first round of the playoffs in Nilsson’s first season in Minnesota and they fell well out of contention during his second, so they traded him to the Oilers as a cash dump.

Edmonton Journal Newspaper Clipping From March 3, 1987.

Nilsson fit in seamlessly with the Oilers. He scored 17 points in 17 games during the regular season and then added 19 points in 21 games in the playoffs as the Oilers won their third Stanley Cup in team history. The previous season, Edmonton missed out on a three-peat after being upset by Nilsson’s former team, the Flames, in the second round.
After winning the Stanley Cup, Nilsson carried on his career in Europe. He scored 132 points playing in Italy in 1987-88, returned to Djurgardens in 1988-89, and then joined EHC Kloten in Switzerland for a few seasons in 1989-90. Nilsson made a brief NHL comeback with the Oilers in 1994-95 before his playing career came to an end in 1998.
A few years later, Nilsson’s son, Robert Nilsson, was selected by the New York Islanders with the 15th overall pick in the 2003 draft. Robert Nilsson was one of the players the Oilers got back when they traded away Ryan Smyth and he scored 31 goals and 98 points for the team over 199 games.

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