In his final season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Ty Nelson was named alternate captain, finished the 2019-20 season with 65 points in 61 games, was the seventh-highest scoring player in the league, and the highest-scoring defenceman.
It’s no wonder he was then drafted first overall in the OHL Draft — the first defenceman taken with the opening selection since 2016.
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario
Date of birth: March 30, 2004
Weight: 196 lbs.
Team: North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Unfortunately, the Ontario Hockey League shut down the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Nelson had to wait one full year before showing what he could bring to his new team, the North Bay Battalions.
“You look at it like a learning curve,” Nelson said to The Hockey News of the cancelled season. “When it got fully cancelled, obviously we were devastated, but I said to myself, ‘there’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s time to get to work.’ I took the time to get better and up my game.”
And up his game he did. In his first OHL season, Nelson racked up 51 points (9G, 42A) in 66 games played. He then kicked it up a notch once again when North Bay headed to the playoffs tallying a point per game in the 10 post-season matches.
Standing at 5’10”, Nelson may be on the shorter side for a D-man, but at 196 pounds he’s a stocky player. He’s one who’s offensively gifted, and a right-handed shot as well. Using his powerful skating abilities allows him to jump in on the rush or backpedal when things don’t go exactly as planned.
He’s in the ‘hard to catch’ club when he turns it up and goes at top speed. This, paired with his vision and puckhandling, would explain why he’s usually seen logging nearly 25 minutes of ice time a night, called upon in both penalty-kill and power-play situations. His ability to quickly and creatively transition the puck through the neutral zone usually ends up working to his team's advantage.
In the above video, you can see Nelson go coast-to-coast, circle around the net, and go back to the blue line, controlling the puck the whole time as he weaves his way though, not releasing the puck until he finds an opening. It’s a good representation of all of his best traits working together.
In March, Nelson was invited to compete in this year’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game which showcases the top CHL players eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft. Nelson landed in the top five in several of the tests that were conducted, especially the ones testing the quickness of hands and feet. His rankings among his top-level peers were:
- 30M Backward Skate: second place (4.557 seconds)
- 30M Backward Skate with Puck: second place (4.657 seconds)
- Reaction: fourth place (9.756 seconds)
- Reaction with Puck: fifth place (9.948 seconds)
While Nelson has proven that he has strong raw talents like his shot, puckhandling, and skating skills, his decision-making could use some improvement. Most times when the puck is on his stick he’s able to execute a solid breakout or a pass to set up his teammates (hence the most assists by an OHL rookie this year). But there are times when his impatience shows and it results in a turnover. As you can see in Mitch Brown’s microstats above, he liked to skate the puck out of his zone and into the attacking end, but it’s not something he excelled at. He’s one of the top players in the class of North American prospects tracked in the sample in terms of attempts, but in the middle of the pack in actual execution.
Elite Prospects: #83
FC Hockey: #35
Bob McKenzie: #34
Craig Button: #32
NHL Central Scouting: #32 (NA Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): N/R
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #29
Aside from Elite Prospects giving Nelson an overall ranking of 83, the overall consensus is rather close from other scouting outlets. His Junior stats and offensive style have been compared (probably unfairly) to Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche. Considering Makar well surpassed a point-per-game pace this season and is continuing that form in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I’m sure Nelson is just fine with that comparison.
Like Makar, he’ll also have to overcome doubts about a smaller frame. It may not prevent Nelson from battling for the puck, but does makes it harder to win those battles against larger players. He’s clearly already working on bulking up so the extra muscle combining with a lower centre of gravity should help balance out his stature and give him a stable base to at least keep his check contained.
Losing a full year of development didn’t hinder Nelson’s abilities, but it did cost him repetitions as he begins to discover what works for him on the ice and what doesn’t. Focusing more on improving his defensive awareness and puck patience are the next steps for this competitive defenceman. An NHL team that believes that form will come simply with more playing team and targeted instruction could very well feel the need to select him before the first round is over.