The injury to New York Islanders center John Tavares will give younger players more of an opportunity to log top-six minutes. The player that stands to benefit the most is Brock Nelson. The former first-round pick has been impressive in his first regular season with the team. Nelson has seen limited time on the first line this season to fill the void for injured players, but he will get the chance to finish the season and display his skills. How will he perform?
I am a huge fan Nelson and I think he has the potential to be a solid third-line center in the NHL. I am opposed to Nelson playing at the wing because of his ability to win faceoffs. I think Nelson will be able to produce points with Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo as his linemates. Although he isn’t as dynamic as Tavares, he is a good forechecker, and he has displayed an ability to get his shot off from the slot area.
That being said, once Vanek is traded, the first line will struggle to score goals. Okposo is having his best season in terms of points, but teams will focus more on him once Vanek is gone. Okposo is a power forward, and his game isn’t as flashy or skill-based as his other linemates.
Okposo will not be able to take on 2-3 guys in the open ice and create the kind of chances Tavares and Vanek could in that situation. Nelson will also struggle because he plays a similar game to Okposo, and both players are not great facilitators with the puck. I am excited to see Nelson get a chance to play on the first line, but at this stage in his development, I know there will be growing pains.