I was looking on the TSN site and Craig Button (who I have a lot of respect for when it comes to the NHL draft) released and article showing the top 30 NHL Affiliated Prospects. Of course I was curious so I clicked on it and you can click here to read it. Now the criteria was simple. The player had to be less than 24 years of age and played no more than 10 NHL games. Fair enough. Of course Ryan Strome made the list at number 10 and rightfully so. I had a senior moment looking for Nino, but realized he had “played” 55 games in the NHL so he was out. But the next first rounder from the Islanders I was curious about didn’t make the list.
I was looking for Brock Nelson to be somewhere on that list but to my surprise he wasn’t. So I decided to simplify “Craig’s List” (get it!!!?) and I eliminated all the junior players and any defenseman so I would be left with just the forwards playing in the AHL. The remaining players were Sven Baertschi, Mikael Grandlund, Jakob Silfverberg, Austin Wason, Mika Zibanejad and Jaden Schwartz. To make it easy on everyone reading this, Craig did do a good job with naming these players to the list because they should be NHLers in the near future. But I wanted to go further and compare Nelson to these players.
What I did for comparison was the points per game ratio because Nelson is second in scoring with the listed players above and some have not played as many games. Think of it as a save percentage for goaltenders. Grandlund has a PPG ratio of .94 followed closely by Silfverberg at .93; Baertschi comes in at 3rd with a .89 followed by Nelson with .88. So to sum up the stats, with the list of these 7 players, Nelson is 2nd in scoring and 4th in PPG ratio. So why didn’t Nelson make the cut? Because he’s been under the radar ever since the draft.
In 2010, when it came to the draft, there were only two people I followed: Bob McKenzie and the late E.J. McGuire. When I looked at the archives of Bob’s top 30 mock draft, Nelson didn’t make his list either. But McGuire had this to say about Nelson:
Big, strapping center in the Minnesota High School league. Going to North Dakota next year and destined to be an NHLer with 6-2 frame, 205 pound build. Guaranteed, hard-skating power forward.
Islanders fans know that Nelson ended up having a great yet brief college career with North Dakota, but to be doing as well as he has with Bridgeport not only has Islanders fans believing, but now has other media members taking notice:
“Islander prospect Brock Nelson seems to have adjusted very well to life in the AHL. The first year pro has registered 22 points in 25 games with the Isles’ affiliate in Bridgeport and seems to have picked up where he left off with the University of North Dakota, where he was a scoring star. Nelson is someone to keep an eye on.”
It’s taken time but the Islanders may have found another gem in the draft, something they have been very good at in recent years. The Islanders will no longer be flying under the radar like Brock Nelson has. The time will be coming soon when the media start paying closer attention when it comes to the Islanders and their prospects. I believe, like Nelson, the Islanders have been quietly getting better and when there is a season, whether it be this year or next the Islanders will be the “surprise” team coming out of the east.