The OHL features the projected top pick in the 2022 NHL draft, Shane Wright. But there is a top defenseman featured in the OHL as well. That defenseman is Ty Nelson of the North Bay Battalion.
Ty Nelson Scouting Report
Nelson, born March 30, 2004, in Toronto, Ontario, is a right-handed defender for the Battalion. He stands at 5’10” and 196 pounds. Due to COVID, this is Nelson’s first OHL campaign, and he has done well. In 66 games played, he has scored nine goals and 42 assists for 51 points.
Nelson has been ranked 16th by The Puck Authority, 19th by DobberProspects, 20th by Smaht Scouting, 23rd by Craig Button, 24th by McKeen’s Hockey, 26th by Draft Prospects Hockey, 29th by Recruit Scouting, 34th by Bob McKenzie, 35th by FCHockey, and 55th by Elite Prospects. This writer has Nelson ranked 32nd in his unreleased rankings.
Ty Nelson Deep Dive
Nelson has been ranked anywhere from the middle of the first to the middle of the second. What traits does he have that warrant first-round consideration? What concerns are had that led to him falling outside the first?
Ty Nelson Could Be an Elite Skater
Nelson has the makings of an elite skater. His top speed isn’t great, but it’s definitely above average. His best attributes are his crossovers and acceleration. But even his acceleration is inconsistent at times. Nelson’s edges are very strong, and he shows that most in his crossovers. He can complete tight turns without losing speed, as well as stop on a dime and change directions quickly.
On a more technical note, Nelson could use quite a lot of work. His stride can be very choppy at times, especially when accelerating up ice. Additionally, he needs work on his ankle flexion, as he didn’t have his knees over his toes consistently. His knee bend could also use some work, though it’s more of a consistency issue. If he works on stride length and the more technical aspect of his stride, he very well can be an elite skater. NHL coaching can accomplish that.
Nelson is such an intriguing guy to watch in the offensive zone. With possession established in the offensive end, Nelson exhibits strong movements, finding open pockets of space and allowing for easy passing options for teammates. He isn’t afraid to work his way lower into the offensive zone. However, despite this, he doesn’t get many touches in the zone.
First, let’s focus on his passing ability. Looking at three tracked OHL games of his, Nelson had 13 total offensive zone pass attempts, completing 11 of them (84.62 completion percentage). Of those 13 passes, not a single one was aimed at high danger (the average pass attempts aimed at high danger among 11 2022 eligible defenders is 10.99%). That’s poor. But he does attack medium-danger through his passes, with 23.08% of his passes aimed there (the average is 10%), completing all of them. Ultimately, 76.92% of his passes are aimed at low-danger, mainly a pass to his partner along the blue line or a short pass to the winger against the near-side boards.
Ty Nelson’s Shooting Ability
As for Nelson’s shooting, he shows a little more efficiency than as a passer. In three tracked games, Nelson fired 19 shots, with 12 of them hitting the net (63.16% shot accuracy). Of those 19 shots, just 5.26% came from high-danger (the average is 21%!!!), and he missed the net on all of them. Again, medium-danger is where he is most efficient, with 26.32% of his shots coming from those areas (the average is 18.61%), and he hit the net on all of his shots from there.
Nelson’s shot features generally good accuracy, knowing where to put pucks when he does hit the net, and it has a lot of power behind it. His shot mechanics are solid as well, which explains Nelson having a lot of power behind most of his shots. The problem with Nelson’s shot is not the shot itself, but rather his decision-making, which will be detailed a little later.
What Do These Numbers Tell Us About Ty Nelson?
When it comes to Nelson’s passing, he can be effective. But he does not push the pace often at all. He needs to take some more chances when he brings the puck deeper into the zone, which he does from time to time. Building up off of his solid medium danger impacts, it’s clear he could be effective attacking high-danger off his passes.
As it pertains to his shooting, it is more of the same. He has a heck of a shot, and if he uses it more often and gets in those high-danger areas, he could be lethal. But what could help his passing stats is fewer low-danger shots. Nelson seemingly looks off smarter and more effective passing lanes for a low-danger shot that likely won’t reach the net. He needs to work on being more patient with the puck in the offensive zone and work on his vision moving forward.
Ty Nelson’s Transitional Abilities
Nelson’s vision issues in the offensive zone are further magnified through his transition game. Through three tracked games, Nelson had a controlled zone exit percentage of 34.09%, while being involved in 44 exit attempts, ranking 8th out of 11 defenders tracked. The average controlled exit percentage is 51.44%. When it comes to individual zone exits, or situations where said player skates the puck out of their zone with possession (iContrZEx%), Nelson recorded a 9.09% iContrZEx%. The average iContrZEx% among those same 11 defenders is 14%.
When it comes to entering the offensive zone, Nelson was involved directly in just 20 attempts, gaining entry with possession on 60% of them. The average zone entry percentage is 46.95%, showing that Nelson is one of the better defenders in that aspect. When it comes to individual entries (iContrZEn%), Nelson recorded a 10% iContrZEn%. The average iContrZEn% is 16%, pinning Nelson back below average.
Diving Deeper Into Ty Nelson’s Transitional Numbers
So, what holds Nelson back transitionally? Taking notes of the three tracked games and every notable action gathered shift-by-shift, there is a pattern. There were notes on 30 exit attempts specifically, out of the 44 total he was involved in. Of those 30, 10 were successful. However, 14 combined situations were for the same two mistakes. Eight times Nelson played the puck up the near-side boards when the winger was covered and it led to turnovers and failed or uncontrolled exits. Six times, Nelson sent a pass that was either too inaccurate (behind the intended target) or too hard for his teammate to receive cleanly, leading to uncontrolled exits and, on two occasions, icings.
Nelson really needs to work on his passing and vision with the puck. Far too often he has tunnel vision and makes lazy passes simply because it’s right in front of him, despite the traffic. When he looks around and finds a better pass that has more space and a bigger chance of leading to a rush opportunity, he puts way too much power on those passes. His passes end up getting deflected ahead because they can’t be received easily, or it ends up as an icing.
Defending the Rush
When it comes to defending the opposition from gaining entry into their offensive zone, Nelson struggles. The opposition attacked his half of the ice 45 times in the tracked games. He allowed a clean entry on 25 of them (55.55%). The average for entries allowed is 35%, showing just how poor that number really is. In fact, only two other defenders had over 50% (Keaton Dowhaniuk and Owen Pickering). He successfully defended an entry attempt 10 times or 11.11%. The average is 33.34%, and only one other player recorded under 15% (Ryan Healey) at 14.29%.
Again, looking at the notes, a pattern is found. Of the 45 times his half of the ice was attacked, there were notes on 25 of them. Seven of them included his successful rush defences. However, nine of them were due to poor gap control. Four of them came because Nelson was burned, which helps explain the number behind the poor gap totals. Nelson is not a great backwards skater, and he got burned four times and was forced to transition to skating forwards to attempt to make up for it. That said, he would often have a very poor gap that allowed for very easy entries for the opposition to have. That has to change, or he will be exposed mightily at a higher level of play.
Ty Nelson’s Defensive Zone Play
Despite his struggles defending the rush, Nelson is really good in his own end. He has a strong defensive stick and solid positioning overall. He defends the slot extremely efficiently, constantly clogging the high-danger areas when the puck is on the opposite side of the ice. When the puck is on his side, he pressures the puck-carrier very well and likes to play physically when doing so.
In particular, Nelson’s stick checking is excellent. There were times when he would get beat to the outside and as the attacking forward cuts to the net, Nelson cleanly swats the puck away from them. Due to his strong stick, Nelson is excellent at angling defenders to the boards and away from the slot area. He needs to continue bulking up and work on his defence against the rush to improve his overall defensive game, as he is not NHL-ready by any means for that reason.
What Is Ty Nelson’s Potential?
Ty Nelson is a strong prospect in this 2022 class. The offensive potential is there when looking at his off-puck movement and overall production. Additionally, the problems he has currently in the OHL aren’t a huge deal when it comes to his shot selection. Coaches love having their defenders shoot the puck a lot, just ask Jon Cooper about wanting Victor Hedman to shoot the puck more. It’s still an issue, as he does look off the better play for a low-danger shot, however. Transitionally, Nelson needs a lot of work, and it starts with his passing. Not every pass needs to be a bullet. But similar to his offensive zone struggles, his vision is a problem that needs to be sorted out. Defensively, he needs to work on defending the rush, specifically his gap control and back-skating.
All that said, Nelson certainly has middle-pair upside, with special teams abilities both on the penalty kill and powerplay. However, he’ll likely need to be paired with another strong defender who can move the puck well through the neutral zone. That’s what ultimately leads some scouts to believe he’s closer to being a second-round choice as opposed to a first-round. He’s very raw and needs to clean up a lot of his game.