There weren't a ton of bright spots to choose from in the 2021-22 season for the New York Islanders. However, of the few silver linings, Brock Nelson's might have been the richest. It wasn't long ago many questioned Nelson's consistency, but he's blossomed into one of the NHL's best goal scorers.
Injury and COVID aside, Nelson had the most consistent season of his career and when the Islanders finally started to play better as a team, the 30-year-old center finished the season red hot.
This is a continuation of the player level report cards that Michel Anderson started this offseason and he's now tagged me in:
-New York Islanders (Team Level Report Card)
New York Islanders 21-22 report card: Brock Nelson
Brock Nelson led the Islanders in goals this season with 37 and power-play goals with 11. It's the first time in his career he broke the 30-goal plateau despite being on pace for 30 goals in 2019-20 before the season was shut down. Nelson missed 10 games in 2021-22 between being placed in COVID protocol and sustaining an injury. His goal pace over 82 games is 42 goals.
Nelson tied Mathew Barzal for the team lead in points with 59. He has yet to break that 60-point plateau, but at this point, we're knit picking. Nelson was the Islanders' best offensive player this season exceeding expectations of becoming a 30-goal scorer thanks to a 13-goal month of March and 18 goals in his last 32 games. For scoring 37-goals in a defense-first system, Nelson gets an A+.
When it comes to defensive play, Nelson was just alright this season. At 5on5, Nelson's relative expected goals-against (per 60) was ninth best out of 14 Islanders skaters that skated in 300 or more minutes this season. Basically, his 0.17 relative xGA means Nelson wasn't the worst when it comes to preventing the opposition from scoring, but he wasn't all that good either.
Nelson does get credit for improving on his 0.24 relative xGA from 2020-21 where he was second-worst only to Nick Leddy. Nelson isn't going to win himself any Selke awards, but at least he's scoring. For improving on last season's relative xGA, Nelson gets a C+
Impact vs. Reliance: A
Only Mathew Barzal was relied on more than Nelson in terms of TOI/GP. Nelson's 17:40 ranks second among Islanders skaters at all strengths. He even ranks third in total TOI this season with 1272:36 in 72 games. He played fewer games than a handful of other impact Islanders, and still averaged more minutes than most which just shows you how much Barry Trotz relied on him.
As for Nelson's game score, he blew all other Islander skaters that played in at least 30 games out of the water. Nelson accrued a 0.72 game score which is 0.14 points higher than the Islanders' next best skater (Barzal) with .058. Nelson was relied on heavily for a reason and the results followed, so for that, he gets an A.
Final Grade: A-
Nelson was easily the Islanders' best, most impactful forward in the 2021-22 season. He'll be entering the back-end of his six-year, $36 million contract next season, but this is the Nelson the Islanders signed up for when they extended him in May 2019.