When the NY Islanders drafted Brock Nelson 30th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, his media photo caused a stir. With his white Islanders jersey, wide smile, and arms out wide, fans deemed Brock "the Reverend." Over the past few seasons, "the Reverend" has certainly answered the prayers of the Islanders and their fans with his terrific and continually improving play on the ice.
After John Tavares spurned the Islanders and left for Toronto in July 2018, Nelson was inserted as the Isles' second-line center. The conventional wisdom was that Nelson, who had largely been playing out of position on the wing or as a checking-line center, was likely to be traded if the Isles resigned Tavares. Instead, when Tavares departed, Nelson was part of the replacement plan.
The initial feeling for Islanders fans in the summer of 2018 was that Tavares leaving the Island was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. However, it turns out that Tavares left a lot of room for other players to break out. Players like Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal remained top-of-the-lineup contributors, and Josh Bailey remained a dependable two-way player and playoff hero.
But nobody benefitted from this change more than Brock Nelson. With Tavares gone and Barzal cemented as the first-line center for the 2018-19 season, the second-line center role was all Brock's. And The Reverend delivered. In 82 games, Nelson scored 25 goals, added 28 assists for a total of 53 points, and earned the complete trust of Barry Trotz and the Isles' coaching staff.
“Before you tell me what you feel about your game, from an outsider, you look like a guy who can put up points and make plays,” Trotz said he told Nelson. “I see your skill level. You look uncomfortable in the role that you were in last year as a third-line center, and I think you can play higher in the lineup.” Trotz further maintained that, as coach of the Caps, he'd always held Nelson in high regard.