Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Jim Neilson
Defenceman Jim Neilson played the body well and moved the puck up ice to his forwards with consistency. He played over 1,000 games and was an underrated member of the fine New York Rangers teams of the early 1970s.

Born in Big River, Saskatchewan, Neilson was a mix of Danish and Cree and grew up in an orphanage where he was educated and played hockey. He excelled for three years with the Prince Albert Mintos of the SJHL where he registered consecutive 20-goal seasons in 1960 and 1961. The New York Rangers prospect enjoyed a solid first pro season in the EPHL with the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers in 1961-62.

Neilson looked solid as a rookie paired with Doug Harvey in 1962-63 and became a fixture on the New York defence for a dozen seasons. In 1967-68 he played superior defence and scored 35 points, which earned him selection to the NHL second all-star team. "Chief" scored a career-high ten goals and 44 points the next year then helped the Blueshirts become one of the league's elite clubs. In 1968-69, he was paired with rookie Brad Park and was credited with making a huge difference in the youngster's game.

The only down side for Neilson during this period was a serious knee injury in February 1970, which prevented him from making sharp turns the rest of his career. Beginning in 1970-71 the Rangers recorded three straight 100-point seasons and reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1972. They also reached the semi-finals in 1973 before rebuilding in mid-decade.

In June 1974, the Rangers left the veteran blueliner unprotected at the Intra-League Draft. Neilson was claimed by the weak California Golden Seals and he became a stabilizing influence on the club playing mostly with youngster Rick Hampton. He played two years on the West Coast and remained with the franchise during its two-year stay in Cleveland. Neilson retired in 1979 after playing a year in the WHA with Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. By this time chronic back problems had taken their toll and Neilson was not interested in the required surgery and rehabilitation at his age.


REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
Season Club League GP G A TP PIM +/- GP G A TP PIM
1958-59 Prince Albert Mintos SJHL 10 1 2 3 6
1959-60 Prince Albert Mintos SJHL 57 21 28 49 61 7 2 2 4 6
1960-61 Prince Albert Mintos SJHL 59 20 26 46 59
1961-62 Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers EPHL 70 9 33 42 78 7 2 3 5 2
1962-63 New York Rangers NHL 69 5 11 16 38
1963-64 New York Rangers NHL 69 5 24 29 93
1964-65 New York Rangers NHL 62 0 13 13 58
1965-66 New York Rangers NHL 65 4 19 23 84
1966-67 New York Rangers NHL 61 4 11 15 65 4 1 0 1 0
1967-68 New York Rangers NHL 67 6 29 35 60 +29 6 0 2 2 4
1968-69 New York Rangers NHL 76 10 34 44 95 +6 4 0 3 3 5
1969-70 New York Rangers NHL 62 3 20 23 75 +24 6 0 1 1 8
1970-71 New York Rangers NHL 77 8 24 32 69 +31 13 0 3 3 30
1971-72 New York Rangers NHL 78 7 30 37 56 +38 10 0 3 3 8
1972-73 New York Rangers NHL 52 4 16 20 35 +22 10 0 4 4 2
1973-74 New York Rangers NHL 72 4 7 11 38 -4 12 0 1 1 4
1974-75 California Golden Seals NHL 72 3 17 20 56 -46
1975-76 California Golden Seals NHL 26 1 6 7 20 -6
1976-77 Cleveland Barons NHL 47 3 17 20 42 -5
1977-78 Cleveland Barons NHL 68 2 21 23 20 -25
1978-79 Edmonton Oilers WHA 35 0 5 5 18
NHL Totals 1023 69 299 368 904 65 1 17 18 61


NHL Second All-Star Team (1968) Played in NHL All-Star Game (1967, 1971) Selected by LA Sharks (WHA) in 1972 WHA General Player Draft, February 12, 1972. Claimed by California from NY Rangers in Intra-League Draft, June 10, 1974. Transferred to Cleveland after California franchise relocated, August 26, 1976. Placed on Minnesota Reserve List after Cleveland-Minnesota Dispersal Draft, June 15, 1978. Signed as a free agent by Edmonton (WHA), June, 1978.
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