The New York Islanders had to wait until the second round of the 2023 NHL Draft before making their first selection. That pick was forward Danny Nelson, a player that had a first-round grade in some rankings with the potential to quickly shoot up Isles' list of top prospects in coming years.
On the latest episode of Talking Hockey Sense, NHL analyst and host Chris Peters talked about the Nelson selection and when he is projected to make an impact at the NHL level.
"He's headed to the Univesity of Notre Dame, following the Anders Lee path, Peters pointed out."
"He's going to round out his game, become a good two-way center. He's at least three years away, added Peters. "There's much more development that he needs that was evident throughout this year in the national team program."
Nelson is now viewed as a two-way center, but it wasn't always the case. While in high school, he spent a lot of time on defense, but the Islanders clearly see his future up front. "We project him as a forward," said Isles GM Lou Lamoriello following the draft. "It’s interesting to see he’s done both, but he’s projected as a forward"
Nelson spent the last few seasons preparing for the draft as part of the USA U-18 United States National Team Development Program (NTDP). With an NHL frame, standing 6'3", and already weighing over 200 lbs, Nelson knows how has demonstrated that he understands how best to use size on both ends of the ice.
"He is a bigger player, an athlete, and showed flashes of skill last year. I think his scoring is going to have to pick up, noted Peters. "At Notre Dame, they're more of a defensive-minded team. Hopefully, his skills pop a little more and allow him to produce at that level."
Nelson is viewed as having top-six potential with a third-center floor. He's seen as a high-character player with a consistent work ethic and intensity in his game that will endear him to coaching staffs.
As a 17 year-old, he scored 21 goals with 26 assists in 62 games with the USNTDP last season. Whether he can score enough to be projected as a No. 1 and No. 2 center in the future will be something to watch as the Minnesota native starts his collegiate career in South Bend.