Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Danny Nelson Scouting Report.
The United States National Team Development Program continues to churn out top prospects and this year is no different. While he has been overshadowed by some of the bigger names on the team, make no mistake that Danny Nelson is still a solid NHL Draft prospect. In 2021-22, while playing for the Under-17 team, Nelson had seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 11 games. He also put up 40 points playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
This past season, Nelson made the move to Ann Arbor to play full time with the US NTDP. The move really benefited him. While he started off slow, his game got better as the season progressed. He was a key figure at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships, putting up four goals and three assists for seven points in seven tournament games and helping the United States to a gold medal. Nelson also matched up against the opponent’s top lines and killed penalties in the tournament. During the season Nelson finished with 21 goals and 26 assists for 47 points in 62 games. Nelson is committed to joining the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next season.
Danny Nelson Scouting Report
Centre/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 3rd, 2005 — Maple Grove, Minnesota
Height 6’3″ — Weight 202 lbs [191 cm/92 kg]
Nelson’s skating has improved over the course of the season. While he will never be a speedster, he has improved his stride and now has decent acceleration and top-end speed. For a bigger player, he also has good edgework and agility. Nelson can maneuver in and out of traffic. He can get away from defenders and find open ice both with and without the puck. Nelson is also very strong on his skates. It is very hard to knock him off the puck. He is able to establish his position in front of the net and is difficult to move when he gets there. His size and strength also help him to win battles along the boards. Nelson uses his long reach and size to help him protect the puck in the cycle. His balance helps him to shrug off hits.
Nelson has been used on both the wing and at centre. He plays a power game, carrying the puck and getting to the front of the net. He is also very good at causing havoc in front of the net when he doesn’t have the puck. Nelson’s size creates issues as he screens goalies. With his power and being tough to move, he can score goals with rebounds, short one-timers and deflections. He is not afraid to get dirty in the cycle game, controlling the puck down low and winning battles on the boards. Nelson is a good stickhandler. This allows him to make a quick move to create space for a passing and shooting lane. He is not the most creative player though, looking for short and safe passes.
Nelson also has a very good array of shots. His slapshot, snapshot, wrist shot and one-timer are all extremely heavy. He also has a good release with the ability to be deceptive by changing the angle of his stick. As a result, he can fool goalies with his shot on the rush, or from the top of the circles. Nelson works hard in the offensive end battling for loose pucks and getting in on the forecheck. He pressures opponents into rushing their plays and can create turnovers.
Nelson improved his defensive game as the season went along. He brings his gritty game to the defensive end of the ice, supporting the defence down low and using his size and strength to keep opponents to the outside and away from good shooting areas. With his size and strength, he is able to clear the front of the net and win battles on the boards. Nelson is not afraid to block shots. He also uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes. Nelson reads the play very well and can anticipate opponent’s movements and create turnovers. Once a turnover is created, he is quick to transition and create offence. Nelson is also good at faceoffs for his age.
Projection and Comparison
Nelson will benefit from going to a new team next year. Outside of the US NTDP he could grow into a role where he is able to get more time in the top-six. This might not be immediate at Notre Dame, but he should spend two or three years in college and work his way up the lineup. It will also give him the time to add muscle to his frame, something he will need to play the same style at the pro level. After two or three years in college he can move up to the AHL. If he develops correctly, he could become a powerful two-way centre capable of playing in all situations. Nelson’s game is reminiscent of Jordan Staal, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.
The following is a compilation of some of the highlight packages and features of Danny Nelson that are available on youtube and Twitter.
Don’t give Danny Nelson this much room pic.twitter.com/kHI5DhIKww
— YHH (@YouthHockeyHub) April 27, 2023
Danny Nelson gets @usahockey on the board!!!
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) April 30, 2023
Check back later for our latest draft article.
Main photo by: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports