Most of this past season for the NY Islanders didn't go as planned, but Brock Nelson was one of the few bright spots. After some questions regarding consistency in his early career, Nelson has only become a better player with each passing season. Last season, Nelson really solidified himself as a top-6 center that the Islanders can lean on coming back from an injury without missing a beat, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and being asked to play with first-line minutes and matchups. He shows great value at all ends of the rink to boot.
Nelson was recognized both by GM Lou Lamoriello and former head coach Barry Trotz as having the perfect build for a top-6 center on a contending team. He is responsible in all three zones, has a lethal wrist shot, and wears an 'A' on his sweater as a leader next to Anders Lee. His 25 goal, 53 point 2018-19 season earned him a 6-year, $36 million, and has certainly been well worth the contract after many thought that he may have been paid too much annually.
On the offensive side, you couldn't ask much more from the Minnesota native in 2021-22. Even with his wingers constantly being shuffled throughout the season, Nelson still managed to put up a career-high 37 goals and team-leading 59 points (tied with Mathew Barzal), yet still missed 10 games. He scored two hat tricks including a four-goal performance against the Montreal Canadiens in November.
His previous career high was 26 which he had achieved twice in his career and he was poised to reach his first 40-goal season if Covid and injuries didn't get in the way. He also scored a career-high 11 goals on the power play and was a key reason why the man advantage began to pick up some steam late in the 2021-22 campaign.
"You obviously set individual goals, and I won’t say what each season I’ve had set, but I think it just gives you something to strive for. If you do that, you’re going to help the team win and contribute. So, yeah, that would be cool."- Brock Nelson on chasing 40 goals
Nelson has become synonymous with the term "Brocktober" due to his history of coming hot out of the gate to start a season. Some disliked the term because it suggested that he would only peak at the beginning of the season however since Trotz came to Long Island and turned the team around, he's proven otherwise.
Nelson had a ridiculous 21.6 S% last season, well above his average of 14.2%. That's not to say he can't do it again, but 40 goals might be asking a lot as scoring more goals than he did is a tall order. But, paired with the right linemates, if they find twine more efficiently then Nelson could reach another career high in points by breaking the 60-point mark for the first time in his career. Nelson found great chemistry when reunited with Lee and it's plausible to think those two could be together again to start the season.
With Trotz out of the picture now, many wonder how the Islanders and Nelson's game will translate in a new system under newly promoted head coach Lane Lambert. Brock has developed a complete, 200-foot game ever since Trotz was hired, so it's reasonable to expect that he keeps a similar, steady game under the new regime. Ideally, Nelson is a very good and effective second-line center for the Islanders who can possibly slightly regress closer to the 30-goal mark given how far he eclipsed his career S% last season. Regardless, Nelson has been at least a 30-goal caliber center over three seasons and will need to maintain that prowess to help get the Islanders back to the postseason.