The New York Islanders have a spot open in the top line after Thomas Vanek declined a long-term contract with the team, and that spot could be Brock Nelson’s for the taking (NHL, August 1).
Nelson, a 22-year-old forward, played 72 games for the Islanders last season, ending his rookie year with 14 goals and 12 assists.
“It’s a long ways away yet, but time goes fast and you just gotta work hard,” Nelson said. “If I’m given that opportunity, [then I need] to be ready and take advantage of it. [I have to] be as ready and prepared and be ready to play at a high level because they’re great players and they make a lot of plays offensively. If I end up there, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing. But I’ve got to be ready and there’s a lot of guys that could fill in that spot.”
Islanders coach Jack Capuano won’t decide who will fill that vacancy in the top line until after training camp, but Nelson’s size is a definite positive.
“It’s always tough for me to take a 6-foot-3 guy like Brock Nelson out of the middle,” Capuano said. “He really established himself as one of the top young centermen in the League for me. He’s so smart, he’s got great intelligence of the game. But if we have to do that and try him on the wing on Johnny’s line to see how that goes, we’re open to do that as well.
Of course, for a rookie like Nelson, who was the No. 30 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, he’s just looking to be in the lineup.
“That’s been a popular question, but I feel pretty confident and comfortable at both positions,” Nelson said. “I think the only thing you think a little differently is maybe [at] center you’re a little more responsible defensively, but I think that’s something that I’ve tried to incorporate into my game no matter where I’m at.”