LOS ANGELES– Drafted 30th overall in 2010, New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson always showed the potential to be a strong player in the National Hockey League, but it took him years to develop into more of a consistent forward.
After a three-year stint in Bridgeport, Nelson made his NHL debut in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, just one game, and since then, had been an everyday player for the New York Islanders.
But a day player doesn’t mean a consistent everyday player, and despite potting 20 or more goals in five of his first eight seasons in New York, he was a streaky player.
Things changed when Barry Trotz was hired in the summer of 2018.
In his first season under the tutelage of the soon-to-be general manager of the Nashville Predators, Nelson netted 25 goals and a career-high 28 assists in 82 games.
In 2019-20, a 68-game campaign due to COVID-19, Nelson matched his career-high in both goals (26) and assists (28), playing to a 65-point pace which would have been a new career-high.
Another shortened season only saw him net 15 goals with 18 assists in 56 games, just a 48-point pace, but to make up for maybe a weaker season, he entered the 2021-22 season on a mission.
For the first time, his streakiness lasted an entire season, as he set a new career-high in goals with 37, finishing his season with a career-high 59 points in 72 games. Had he not missed 10 games due to an injury and COVID, he would have surpassed 40 goals.
Although predictions are merely that, his career-high 21.6 shooting percentage backs up that claim.
While he’s been a bit more streaky than he was a season ago, Nelson has been dominant for the Islanders this season.
In his first season as an NHL All-Star, winning the accuracy shooting competition, Nelson has again put his team on his back. Yes, there’s been streaky moments, a bit more than he would like, but as they say, “the ebbs and flows of a season.”
After potting two goals in the 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, Nelson reached the 30-goal mark for the second consecutive season.
His first goal of the night was a howitzer from inside the right circle, gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead with 23 seconds to play in the second. His second goal, a quick catch and release from the low slot gave the Islanders a 5-2 lead.
Brock Nelson scored his 2️⃣9️⃣th and 3️⃣0️⃣th goals of the season in last night’s W. pic.twitter.com/75mhglifPY
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
It’s obvious by the way he’s been shooting the last two years that there’s been an extra boost of confidence in his game, which success usually brings.
“Obviously, that first goal, well, both goals really, but the first goal he scored tonight was a pretty special goal,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s taking advantage of his opportunities and shooting the puck when he can, and he’s doing a really good job.”
NYI Hockey Now asked Nelson what’s changed in his game over the last two years.
“Different roles, maybe. Switching to the half wall definitely helps a little bit on the powerplay. I’ve always said that just gets you a few more touches and looks,” Nelson said. “So I think with that probably is a little bit of confidence and just playing, trying to stay aggressive and be on the attack and always think, you got to stay patient. but you are always still thinking offense.”
As for what it would mean for him to hit 40 this season or at any point going forward?
“That’d be cool for sure,” Nelson said. “Obviously, you set goals, and you incrementally, maybe, increase or adjust different things. You obviously can’t go out there with an absurd number. So you’re always looking to get better, produce and help the team win and contribute.
“So right now it’s at 30, and just trying to go from there and get the next one.”
Through 70 games, Brock Nelson, at age 31, has 30 goals and a career-high 35 assists with 65 points, a new career-high in counting as the Islanders playoff push continues.