The draft is now just 6 days away, and here’s some more draft news to whet your appetite. According to our sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed significant interest in 2010 draft prospect Brock Nelson out of Warroad High School in Minnesota.
The 6’3 power forward has an impressive on-ice skillset, is very coachable, possesses hockey bloodlines and could very well be the Leafs‘ target if they manage to trade into the 1st round. This is a project pick that may take a couple years to pay off, but the potential here is sky high.
Strengths: Nelson is a big kid with strong offensive skills and a boatload of long-term projectability. He’s an adept goal scorer and a truly gifted skater with legitimate end-to-end speed on the rush. He has above average playmaking ability, which should become an even more important part of his game when he is surrounded by more talented teammates at the University of Dakota next season. Defensively, he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty along the boards and is among the best faceoff men in this entire draft class. Brock’s skillset is still raw, but the combination of size, high end skill and character is extremely rare and he could very well be a special NHL talent.
Weaknesses: The major knock against Nelson right now is that while he put up incredible numbers last season (25 GP, 39 G, 34 A, 73 PTS), he did so against high school players, which represents significantly weaker competition than the rest of the his draft peers. You could argue that his size and speed simply made everything almost too easy for Brock over the past couple years, and it’s still unclear how he would react to adversity or high pressure games. He still has much to learn about the finer aspects of the game, such as defensive positional play, before being able to successful make the jump to the pro ranks.
Long-Term Upside: As mentioned above, Nelson is going to be a long-term project for the team that picks him, but he represents some of the highest upside in the entire 1st round. The body is there, the work ethic is there, and the skills are definitely there…it’s just a matter of when and how he’s going to put it all together to become the dominant player scouts know he can be. NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire believes that Brock is “destined to be an NHL player” as a “guaranteed, hard skating power forward.” Describing his offensive potential, Nelson’s coach explains that he can “do stuff with the puck in practice and games that others can only dream about”.
Draft Day: Nelson is currently ranked 25th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and 26th overall by ISS, and figures to be drafted somewhere in the second half of the first round. Word around the scouting circles is that the Leafs are strongly considering Nelson among their top choices if they manage to acquire a 1st round selection. In a recent NHL.com mock draft, Nelson was compared to St. Louis forward and U.S. Olympian David Backes.
Interesting Note: Nelson is the nephew of Dave Christian, a member of the 1980 U.S. Miracle on Ice team and all-American at the University of North Dakota, and grandson of Billy Christian, who won Olympic gold with the 1960 American squad.