Going into the 2018-19 NHL season Brock Nelson might have to play a different position than he’s used to. The wing. A position he’s perfectly suited for.
As the New York Islanders build their roster for 2018-19 it’s growing increasingly clear that Brock Nelson might not have a spot at center. With Mathew Barzal, Jan Kovar, Valtteri Filppula, and Casey Cizikas the Islanders have enough centers to fill the lineup.
It’s likely going to force the Islanders to move Brock Nelson to the wing. Based on what we’ve seen from Brock Nelson at center this might not be such a bad thing. Brock Nelson is better suited to be a winger.
I’ll explain why.
What Makes a Good Winger
There are a few things that make a good winger in the NHL. He’s got to be able to take the puck out of the defensive zone from the center. He’s got to be able to battle down low to get the puck out. And he’s got to be able get the puck on net.
In terms of the defensive zone, wingers don’t have the same responsibilities as the centers do. In their own zone wingers generally sticks to the area between the hash marks and the blue line. Where the center generally has to cover the entire middle lane and the front of the net.
That combination of lesser defensive responsibilities in terms of coverage and equal offensive responsibilities perfectly suits Brock Nelson and his skills as a forward.
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Why That Suits Brock Nelson
By staying around the hash marks on the defensive zone, Nelson is already well positioned to get himself open for a pass out of the zone from the center. Brock is a good puck carrier, he isn’t a great playmaker out of the zone.
With a 6’3″ 212lbs frame, Brock has the prerequisite to being a good board battler. But Brock hasn’t been a physical player in his five years in the NHL. That will change with Barry Trotz as head coach.
Brock loves to shoot the puck on net. He regularly hits over 170 shots on net per season. Coincidentally the only times he didn’t record more than 170 shots on net he didn’t get 20 goals. Brock needs to shoot the puck. It’s what he does best. Brock Nelson’s wrist shot is his single greatest asset.
Defensively responsible for the area between the blueline and the harsh marks works perfectly well for Bock Nelson. Sure, if he’s the first man back he needs to follow his man until he’s picked up by a defender, but Brock is rarely the first man back. Defensively, less is more for Brock Nelson.
Oh, and faceoffs. Brock isn’t very good at faceoffs. Over his NHL career, Brock has a 45.3 percent win percentage on faceoffs. For a team that just wants to do the simple things right, getting Brock off the faceoff is a good idea.
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I’m looking forward to Brock Nelson playing as a winger. I believe he’s better suited to play on the winger rather than up the middle of the ice.