Danny Nelson – 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Danny Nelson

2022-23 Team: USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Date of Birth: Aug. 3, 2005
Place of Birth: Maple Grove, MN
Height: 6-foot-3, Weight: 203 pounds
Shoots: Left
Position: Forward
NHL Draft Eligibility: First-year eligible


Danny Nelson used to be a defenseman, but has transitioned well to playing the wing and has worked his way into conversations of being drafted in the early rounds of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He is a bigger winger standing at 6-foot-3, who uses his size well in protecting the puck in the offensive zone and has been decent in the faceoff dot. His east-to-west game in the O-zone is definitely stronger than his north-to-south, and his size and edgework make him a threat on the forecheck.

He’s more of a goalscorer than a playmaker, but still has decent playmaking ability, partially due to having soft hands for a bigger player. His shot is heavy and he has a quick release that could catch opposing goaltenders off guard. Nelson was able to find success playing for the United States Development Program in the United States Hockey League (USHL) despite being on a very deep team.

Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide

He embarked on a 10-game point streak where he totaled 15 points between Oct. 21, 2022 and Nov. 18, 2022. The first five games of the streak doubled as a five-game goalscoring streak during which he scored six of his eight goals on the season. He had also been utilized on the power play, scoring three goals and two game-winning goals. Given the talent on that roster, including several projected first-round draft picks, I’d like to see how his power play numbers look with a larger role on the power play.

While his edgework is strong in the offensive zone, his pace of play is an area where he could look to improve upon. I think a lot of that is due to a lack of speed and acceleration, but at 17 years old he has time to work on it. His defensive consistency and compete level is something that has been lacking at times, but as a Notre Dame commit, his development shouldn’t be rushed.

I feel like Nelson is overshadowed by some of his USDP teammates who are projected to be drafted higher than him, such as Gabe Perreault and Will Smith. Between that, and prospective teams knowing he’s a bit of a project as he will be playing college hockey for the 2024-25 season, he could be seen as a steal by the time he makes it to the NHL should his development trend upward. 

Other THW Draft Profiles

Danny Nelson – NHL Draft Projection

Nelson’s draft rankings range from the later first round to the third round, and I could definitely see him falling in between to the middle of the second round. A team that’s in the latter stages of its championship contention window could look to snag him in that range. If that’s the case, he’ll have a lot of time to develop properly, since the team likely wouldn’t be ready for him in the next year or two and won’t need to rush him in. He could be used to help extend a window that could be close to closing; it could be a good situation for him to fall into when the time is right.


“A former defenseman who has transitioned very nicely to a winger, who moves really well for a big man and also has soft mitts. He is a powerful skater with excellent balance who is tough to move off the puck. He is more of a complementary attacker – huge horse who eagerly does a lot of dirty work down low and creates more time and space for his more highly skilled linemates. He wins plenty of puck battles along the wall and behind the net. He will move out of them with power moves towards the net, and funnels pucks to the middle.” – Bill Placzek, Lines

Danny Nelson USNTDP
Danny Nelson, USNTDP forward (Rena Laverty/USA Hockey’s NTDP)

“Nelson’s combination his big frame and being mobile enough to get around well is something I’ve yet to see in another draft eligible in this class… He’s a player that scouts and general managers will fall in love with come draft time, there’s not many I’ve seen like him. I think he can be a solid third line guy that can generate offense and possibly play up in the lineup when called upon. Nelson’s floor is high and has some upside to his game as well. I’d look to take him late in the first round or early in the second in the upcoming draft” – Douglas Larson (from ‘Nov. 11, 2023 Scouting Report of Danny Nelson,’ FC Hockey, Nov. 11, 2023).


  • Edgework
  • Mobility considering his size
  • Heavy shot
  • Faceoffs
  • Playmaking ability
  • Quick release

Under Construction – Improvements to Make

  • Speed and acceleration
  • Pace of play
  • Defensive consistency
  • Compete level

NHL Potential

I think Nelson has the upside to be a middle-six scoring winger. Ideally, he’d use his time collegiately to work on his defensive game, which could lead to a penalty-killing role down the line. If I’m building a team, I want my middle-six players to be able to play both secondary power play time and penalty-killing time, which requires that defensive responsibility. Even if he doesn’t become a penalty killer, just more consistency in the defensive zone will go a long way.

Danny Nelson USNTDP
Danny Nelson, USNTDP forward (Rena Laverty/USA Hockey’s NTDP)

I could see him being a valuable power play asset, especially due to his size and in-zone ability. He will have a good career in the NHL if he’s able to hone in on his already present and growing offensive abilities, and can round out his game enough to be a reliable option late in games whether his team is trailing or holding onto a lead. He may not develop into a game-breaking superstar, but could be a strong complementary piece to a championship-winning team.


Risk – 2.5/5, Reward – 4/5

Fantasy Hockey Potential

Offense – 7.5/10, Defense – 5.5/10

Awards and Achievements

  • Drafted 26th overall by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 2021 USHL Futures Draft
  • Committed to the University of Notre Dame for the 2024-25 season

Nelson Shines, Takes Runner-up In State Final – Gamblers Hockey Website

Danny Nelson Stats


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