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Coming in at number two on Islander Country's Top Ten Prospects in the Islanders' System is 2010 first round pick (30th overall), American born center, Brock Nelson.
During the 2012-2013 season, Nelson, spent his first season as a pro with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. Nelson's development with Bridgeport last year could not have gone any better for the Islanders. In 66 games with Bridgeport, Nelson put up 25 goals, 27 assists, 52 points, an even rating, and 34 PIM. The 52 points Nelson registered were good enough to lead Bridgeport in scoring last season.
The Isles were happy with Nelson's development last season, so they added him as a "Black Ace" on the "Taxi Squad" during the Isles playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Being part of the "taxi squad" allowed Nelson to practice with the Isles during the playoffs, and allowed the Isles to dress Nelson if needed. Nelson's year went so well, probably better than even the Isles expected, so Nelson made his NHL debut when the Isles dressed him for an elimination game six against Pittsburgh. Nelson, played limited minutes on the fourth line in his debut, but he did not look out-of-place.
There is a lot to like about Nelson's game, as he has developed into a smart, solid two-way forward. Nelson, has great vision, which he displays at the offensive end of the ice with his creativity. Nelson, sees the ice well, and can identify passing lanes to get the puck to an open teammate for a shot on goal.
Other solid parts to Nelson's game offensively are his hands and shot. Nelson, has good hands, which allows him to get a quick release on his wrist shot. The wrist shot Nelson possesses, is near lethal too, because not only does Nelson have a quick release, but his wrist shot is very accurate as well. This makes him tough for a defenseman to defend him, because they do not know if he will use his creativity to pass the puck off to an open teammate, or protect the puck and drive the net himself and put the puck on net with his quick wrist shot.
On the defensive end of the ice, Nelson is just as sound as he is offensively. He is a smart player, so Nelson keeps himself well positioned in his own end, and rarely will get caught out of position. Nelson, also keeps his stick active to block off passing lanes for the opposition. Opponents have a tough time in the offensive end while Nelson defends them because he uses his hockey sense to read and react to the play well. Nelson, uses his hockey sense to create turnovers, and get the puck going up ice into the offensive zone.
Nelson, is good enough defensively to kill penalties as well. Another solid penalty killer is something the Isles could use, as their penalty kill unit struggled at times in recent seasons.
There is a physical element to Nelson's game too. At 6'3" 205, Nelson is a bigger forward, and is not afraid to throw the body. In his NHL debut in game six against Pittsburgh in the playoffs, we saw Nelson play physical in his limited action that game. Nelson, knows how to play physical and smart at the same time as well. He does not get over aggressive physically to where it takes him out of position on the defensive end of the ice. The 34PIM Nelson had last season also reflects that Nelson does not take bad penalties from being too aggressive physically as well.
There is no real weakness to Nelson's game, as he is a sound player in all three zones. The biggest weakness to Nelson's game was his skating ability, but he worked hard at his skating last year in Bridgeport, and it improved greatly.
When camp opens in September in a few weeks, Nelson will be in camp with the Isles, and has a legitimate shot to make the Isles' opening night roster. There is one open spot among the forward group, and that spot probably will come down to Nelson versus another highly touted prospect by the name of Ryan Strome. Nelson, has an edge over Strome though, because he has already spent a year in the pros, so his development is further along. Barring an injury, or an extremely poor camp, Nelson should be centering the third line for the Isles on opening night.
Nelson, has developed better than even the Isles could have hoped. Initially projected to be a third line center, Nelson now has second line center potential. If he keeps working hard like he did last year, Nelson, is on the cusp of being a key piece to the Isles future as they continue to rebuild into a cup contending team.
What do you guys think about Nelson? Does he make the opening night roster? Are you excited about Nelson's future? Is he ranked too high at number two? Let's hear some discussion in comments!
Look for number one to be revealed on Wednesday, then we will begin to preview the season ahead!
The list so far:
The Honorable Mentions
Number 10: Johan Sundstrom
Number 9: Andrey Pedan
Number 8: Matt Donovan
Number 7: Anders Lee
Number 6: Calvin de Haan
Number 5: Ville Pokka
Number 4: Ryan Pulock
Number 3: Griffin Reinhart
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