2021-22 Team: North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Date of Birth: Mar. 30, 2004
Place of Birth: Toronto, ON
Ht: 5-foot-10 Wt: 196 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
NHL Central Scouting: 32 (amongst NA skaters)
FC Hockey: 35
TSN/Craig Button: 23
Dobber Prospects: 20
Smaht Scouting: 20
The Hockey Writers (Forbes): 28
The Hockey Writers (Zator): 25
The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 41
Ty Nelson was the first player to hear his name called for the 2020 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection, and while he won’t be going first overall at the 2022 NHL Draft, he’s made enough of an impact in his first year of junior hockey to bet he’ll be off the board by the end of the first round. A right-handed, offensively-minded defenseman from Toronto, Nelson was one of many OHL prospects who had to wait a year before making their debuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
An alternate captain for the U16 AAA Toronto Jr Canadiens, Nelson finished the 2019-20 season with 65 points in 61 games, which earned him first overall honours to the North Bay Battalion. While there was obviously no OHL hockey to analyze in 2020-21, Nelson immediately jumped in and made an impact for the Battalion when he finally got his shot in 2021-22. He finished his rookie season with 51 points in 66 games and helped the Battalion clinch a playoff berth, only one season removed from finishing with a league-worst 38 points in 2019-20.
Watching Nelson play, his skating ability is clearly his strong suit. He possesses some pretty explosive speed jumping into the rush, and his skating style reminds me a bit of Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Morgan Rielly. Both players bend their knees quite a bit in transition from backward to forward skating, and both have a very smooth stride. He’s also usually pretty quick to get back if the play turns the other way in a pinch.
Nelson is an ideal power-play quarterback when it comes to playing with the man advantage. He has a quick wrist shot from the point that jumps off the stick and can find its way to the net and create rebound opportunities. He does an excellent job of holding the blue line and keeping the play moving, yet stable at the same time. And if he puts his body into it, he can get some serious power on his shot. He even broke a puck into two pieces once.
Although you’ll likely see the term “undersized” used to describe Nelson, his stocky frame can make it difficult for players to knock him off the puck even if he isn’t the tallest player on the ice. And, given that he’s only 18, he still has room to grow physically, so I’m not concerned about his size affecting his defensive game at all. He also makes a point to train his mental side of the game, playing games like chess and cribbage to improve in that regard.
The one knock on his game is, at times, his decision-making could be better. There are instances where he’ll treat the puck like a grenade with the pin removed, resulting in giveaways. His patience with plays like this in the offensive zone could be better, but that’s something that can easily be solved with proper development and growth as a player. It’s important to remember this when gauging the skillset of a young defenseman like Nelson.
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Ty Nelson – Draft Projection
Nelson seems to be all over the scouts’ boards this season. Based on the way he’s ranked, he could go anywhere from 20th overall to 50th overall depending on how NHL team scouts see him. But I think the upside is too strong for him to slip out of the first round. It’s important to remember that he lost an entire year of development, so without that extra OHL season, it’s hard to guess how much his draft stock fell. Overall, I’d say expect Nelson to go in the back half of the first round, likely between the 20th and 30th.
“In my view, you would be hard-pressed to find defensemen in this draft class with a higher ceiling in their raw puck-moving skill set. Nelson is a dynamic, mobile, and skilled puck rushing defenseman who can generate offense for his club with one rush up the ice, and with the right coaching and patience I think could follow a similar trajectory to the NHL as Colorado’s Samuel Girard.” –Brandon Holmes, FC Hockey
“Nelson has long been a highly-touted prospect due to his high-end offensive ability. He checks all the boxes of a powerplay anchor-type; he is able to weave through defenders using a combination of quick edgework and puck skills, and when he reaches top speed, he is very hard to stop. He is able to generate at least a couple of high-danger scoring chances per game through his rushes alone, and he has also been able to make plays on the cycle as well on the powerplay with consistency.” -Kyle Watson, Dobber Prospects
“He’s a smooth skating, two-way defender. Nelson always displays the poise and confidence every time he’s in motion. He has an accurate point shot and despite his size, he isn’t afraid to challenge opponents bigger than him as he has great strength.” –Peter Baracchini, The Hockey Writers
- Hockey IQ
Under Constructions – Improvements to Make
- Defensive Awareness
Nelson has all the tools to become a top-four defenseman with power-play capabilities at the NHL level. The upside is definitely there, and the improvements to be made are definitely doable at this stage of his career.
Risk 2/5, Reward 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 7/10, Defense 6/10
Nelson was the first overall pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection and lived up to it, finishing the 2021-22 season with the most assists by a rookie.
Ty Nelson Statistics
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Alex Hobson is a writer and a radio producer for 610 CKTB. He has been writing about sports since 2015 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Sticks in the 6ix Podcast, presented by THW. He also makes weekly appearances on THW’s Maple Leafs Lounge Roundtable. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.