There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding the NY Islanders' second-round selection Danny Nelson. Projected as a potential first-round pick, the 6'3" center out of Maple Grove, Minnesota, spent the last two seasons playing with the USNTDP, developing into the player he is today. Born August 3, 2005, Nelson was one of the draft's youngest players, as the eligibility cut-off date is September 15.
Nelson is a powerful two-way center who uses his body to shield the puck and barge into difficult spaces looking for ways to score. He spent time playing defense in high school, leaving many to wonder if he could be seen as a potential defenseman in the NHL, but that was quickly shot down.
"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"
While there have been comparisons with current Islander Brock Nelson, Danny models his game after one of the NHL's elite offensive minds.
"One of the guys I kind of try and watch and emulate my game after is Leon Draisaitl," said Nelson during a sit-down with NHL Network's Sam Cosentino. "I just like that he’s a big body. (He) Obviously makes plays and scores a lot of goals, but he uses his body well and he’s a really good player."
Playing with the NTDP, Nelson was allowed to display his talents on some of junior hockey's biggest stages. Playing alongside the top Americans in his age group, the team faced the rigors of a more elongated schedule than a typical junior team would endure, also playing against bigger, stronger, Division I NCAA teams at times.
Perhaps Nelson's most significant moment this year was his goal in the Gold Medal Game of the U-18 World Championships. Trailing by two goals to Sweden in the third period, Nelson broke the shutout with a beautifully deflected goal midway through the third period, cutting the deficit to one. Team USA later tied the game, winning in overtime on a Ryan Leonard golden goal.
"Overall I think I’ve had a really good season," said Nelson. "I think I’ve produced a lot, but I feel like next year, I can produce even more. I feel like overall as a team we’ve had an amazing season. It’s been awesome to be a part of it."
Nelson will head to the University of Notre Dame next season, the alma mater of Islanders captain Anders Lee. In a phone call with Lee, he expressed how excited he was to have Nelson joining the Islanders - even more so that he was a future member of the Fighting Irish.
Nelson won't be headed to South Bend alone, as he'll be joined by his brother Henry (20), who spent the last two seasons playing with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.
"It’s going to be awesome, I’m so excited for it," said Nelson. "Can’t wait to spend four years with him there. I’ve never actually been able to play on a team with him before, so it’ll be our first time playing on the same team, which is kind of crazy. I’ve always watched him growing up, but now I get to play with and against him in practice, so I’m kind of excited for that.
While it's fantastic that the Nelson brothers will soon be playing alongside each other, the Islanders and Nelson are hoping his time at Notre Dame will be shorter than four years, anticipating an impact made on Long Island sooner rather than later.