Brock Nelson Just Continues to Get Better and Better for the NY Islanders

The dependable two-way center is securing himself a tremendous legacy in Islanders' history with the way he has mitigated the loss of John Tavares.

Brock Nelson has been the rare professional athlete to actually improve his game into his 30s, an extremely welcome turn of events for the Islanders.
Brock Nelson has been the rare professional athlete to actually improve his game into his 30s, an extremely welcome turn of events for the Islanders. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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As the years have gone on, Nelson has continued to simply get better and better every season. This improvement has culminated in back-to-back seasons of 37 and 36 goals, respectively. Nelson has managed to become a more consistent, dependable center as well. For example, over the last five seasons, Nelson's faceoff percentage is 49.5%. For his career, it is 47.6%.

I believe Nelson has been the Islanders' best forward over the past five years. Last season, Nelson led all Isles' forwards with a 2.9 even strength expected goals rating. For what it's worth, Tavares was at 2.1. Now consider that Tavares comes with an $11.5M cap hit and defensive concerns, while Nelson is continually improving his two-way game while making $6M per year under the cap.

In pro sports, it's common for the talking heads to speculate about players' futures, particularly once they hit the dreaded "30." A study from Simon Fraser University asserted that the average forward reaches their prime between ages 27 and 28. Brock Nelson is proving to be quite the exception.

Since the start of the 2021-22 season, after he turned 30, Nelson's 77 goals in 162 games is tied for 19th in the NHL with Alex DeBrincat and Roope Hintz, right behind names like Guentzel, MacKinnon, Kempe, Stamkos, Nylander, and Point, and directly in front of names like Meier, Pettersson, Hughes, and Aho. His ascension into an elite goal scorer has been a welcome development for the Islanders in particular, since they are already an offensively-challenged hockey club. Without Nelson these past few years, the team would have been lost.

In Islanders history, Nelson currently ranks: 8th in games played, 8th in goals, 20th in assists, and 14th in points. Additionally, in the playoffs, Nelson has the 9th-most goals in franchise history, with these eight names in front of him: Bossy, Trottier, Potvin, Gillies, Nystrom, Bourne, Goring, and Tonelli. With one more year on his contract after this one, Nelson still has time to rise on these lists and further secure his legacy as an all-time great Islander.

When all is said and done, I believe Brock Nelson will be remembered as one of the best Islanders in post-dynasty Islanders history. His dependable two-way play, ascension into an elite goal-scorer, and clutch play during the postseason have been the keys to Nelson unlocking his potential and mitigating the loss of John Tavares, which ultimately might be the sweetest part of his legacy for Isles fans.