Not everybody remembers that the Islanders had two first round draft choices in 2010. Nino Niederreiter grabbed most of the attention, being the fifth pick overall and playing in nine games with the big club at age 18. He even scored his first NHL goal. But the Isles organization has not forgotten about their “other” first round selection from last year, Brock Nelson.
Nelson was a bit of an unknown to most Isles fans, even after he was drafted with the 30th and final pick in the first round last season. He had scored 39 goals and 73 points in just 25 games at Warroad High School in Minnesota, but many scouts said that it was difficult to truly judge Nelson’s talent playing against that level of competition.
After attending prospects camp last year, Nelson headed to the University of North Dakota for his freshman year. While UND is a hockey powerhouse, it’s not exactly covered extensively by the local papers here on Long Island, so many fans forgot about big Brock.
Nelson had a productive freshman year up at North Dakota. He scored eight goals and added 13 assists in 42 games with the Fighting Sioux and helped them reach the NCAA Frozen Four. He also played for the USA at the World Junior Championships. He feels both experiences will benefit his long term development.
“It was a pretty fun season at North Dakota,” Nelson said. “To be able to take part in the Frozen Four with all those guys was awesome. The World Juniors was just an added bonus. It’s just a lot of fun to be out there with those guys, a lot of skilled players. I just took back some confidence there and tried to incorporate it in my game back in North Dakota and hopefully continue that into next year.”
Now back on Long Island for his second prospects camp, Nelson is a lot more at ease. “It feels good to be back on here,” he said after the first day of practice. “It feels a little bit different. I’m not as nervous as last year and it’s fun to be back here with all the guys.”
Still just 19-years-old, Nelson’s best hockey lies ahead of him. He knows he has to work hard to continue his climb towards becoming an NHL player. This summer, he spent time working on increasing his “strength, speed, the things that you need to build to go up to the next level. I just have to keep working to move up.”
Nelson’s hard work has been noticed. When asked on Thursday if any players caught his eye, Isles Coach Jack Capuano singled out Nelson. “The one guy that sticks out for me is Brock Nelson,” Capuano said after watching the second day of prospects camp from the stands. “Looking at Brock, I think he put on 12 pounds during his freshman year at North Dakota. You can see a little bit more power in his stride. You can see where he came from in a full year. He’s only going to get better.”
Nelson is determined to continue to make his mark on Long Island at prospects camp, but he is definitely heading back to North Dakota for his sophomore season this fall. When asked about when he plans to turn pro, the 6’3”, 205-pound Minneapolis native said, “I’m just taking it one year at a time. This year I’m looking forward to going back to North Dakota and doing as much as I can there as a player.”
Nelson feels more comfortable on the Nassau Coliseum ice. “I know some more of the guys and I’m not the young guy here anymore,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun, I’m just trying to play the game and learn a lot on and off the ice and take it back home.”
Right now, that home is at the University of North Dakota. But if Nelson continues his growth and development, he may be moving on to Long Island before too long.