One-on-One With Brock Nelson

There might not be any NHL hockey to watch this season, but the Islanders have some young and talented skaters that are developing nicely with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Brock Nelson is one of them.

Nelson was selected by the Islanders 30th overall in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and spent two years playing with the University of North Dakota. In his sophomore season, Nelson scored 47 points in 42 games, earning him a brief stint with the Sound Tigers at the end of the 2012 season.

He did not put up any points in the four games he dressed for the Sound Tigers. This year, however, has been an entirely different story. 

In 23 games played, Nelson sits second on the team in points (19) and goals (10). His line-mate, who was selected 25 slots before him in 2010, is Nino Niederreiter; the only player ahead of him in those categories. (Photo Credit: nyisles14/Flickr)

Last night Nelson called me to discuss his first full season of professional hockey, why he has found himself at the top of the Sound Tigers' stat list, and how he has been affected by the NHL lockout. 

You currently sit second on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers stats for goals and points. What would you say about your play has contributed the most to your success?

I think just being able to play with the great players that I get to play with. With Nino [Niederreiter], he has a lot of experience, last year in the NHL and with Colin McDonald, they're both great players. So far it's been quick and just continued to build chemistry. I think that's a big part of that.

Who are your line-mates with the Sound Tigers, and why do you think you work well together?

Like I said, they're just great players. Nino makes a lot of great plays, he's got a lot of talent, individually. And then McDonald, he's been around a little bit longer than Nino and I. He's got a lot of experience and knows the game. He's obviously able to make a lot of plays to create space and offense for our line. I think that's big and so far we've been able to complement each other pretty well.

What has been the toughest transition for you in regards to coming into pro hockey?

It's a whole different schedule. In college you play 35-40 games and now it's 75, 76 a year. You got to come ready to play every day, three, sometimes four times a week. So it's a little bit different in that aspect. And then just being a professional. It's a job now. So you got to come ready to work every day and continue to work and build every day.

How do you think the team has responded to first time head coach, Scott Pellerin after Brent Thompson was promoted to assistant coach with the New York Islanders?

Pellerin's a great coach. He knows his hockey. He's been around the game for a while so he knows his stuff. Everyone listens to him. He's been a great coach so far. From my little experience with him last year I didn't get familiar with him until this year, but Pelly's been a great coach so far. I've gotten to know him a little bit and it should be a good year with him behind the bench managing our team the whole year.

How do you see yourself fitting into the Islanders future plans, assuming that the lockout has actually ended by next season?

Like you said, with the lockout it's kind of not something right now that will happen, but you just got to continue to work. I think offensively I have a little bit of talent, but defensively I think is the biggest thing at this level. You got to start in your own end and work your way out from there and just continue to try to build my game as a two-way center-man that can play well in his own end and create plays as well.

After spending some time now in the AHL, is there something you think you need to specifically work on in order to make the jump to the NHL?

I think just continuing to push and develop physically, to be a bigger and stronger player. I think my body hasn't quite filled out to its full potential yet, and I'm continuing to work on that and just being a little bit quicker. I think strength will improve a lot of areas in your game after that, like quickness and such. So I think that's one of the main focuses.

What can you say about the impact players like Nino Niederreiter and Travis Hamonic have had with the Sound Tigers being that they bring plenty of NHL experience?

That brings us a lot of experience and knowledge to the game. They're leaders for us, on and off the ice. The guys look up to them on the ice to be leaders for us and I think they do a great job for us. I think it's great to have guys like that on our team. (bridgetds/Flickr)

Calvin de Haan has had a hard time staying healthy almost each year it seems, having once again sustained a major injury that will keep him out the rest of the season. Who would you say has stepped up the most in his absence?

I think that's a tough question. We have a lot of d-men back there who play a lot of minutes for us and do a great job. I think as a whole, the whole group has responded well. It's tough when a guy goes down like that and you hate to see it happen, but we're all in it, you know? We're all supporting him to a full recovery and hopefully he makes that as soon as he can.

The lockout has been horrible for everyone involved. Today (12/10/12), the NHL announced that games are now cancelled through Dec. 30th. What is your opinion on the positions held by the owners, players, and their representatives in Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr?

I don't have an answer for that. The guys are working hard to get a deal done and I don't have a lot of information to put a stance on it, but I think everyone's hoping for a season as soon as it can.

If you were given the power to end the lockout, what do you think the fairest solution would be?

Again, there's a lot of details that I have no idea to make something like that. Just getting a season back on track is a big thing.

If there wasn't a lockout, I'm sure you would be thinking about that phone call to the NHL. But right now I'm sure you know there won't be one since there isn't a season. Does that affect your mentality and your drive or is that something you just have to ignore?

It's beyond our control. We're lucky to have a place to play and I think you just got to look at it and continue to build your game. You have a lot of players who are unable to play and you have the opportunity so you got to go out there and make the most of it, continue to work on your game and develop and fine tune your game so that when the opportunity does come, you'll be ready.

The Islanders can certainly use a two-way center that can contribute offensively while also being reliable in his own end. Developing chemistry with Niederreiter, who is one of the Isles top prospects, provides Islanders fans something to look forward to in what could be the not so distant future.

-Rob McGowan

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