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Ty Nelson is Rounding Into an Enticing NHL Draft Prospect

The North Bay Battalion defenseman used last year to ramp up his game and the result is a player poised to get a lot of attention at the 2022 Draft.
Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

As the first overall pick in the 2020 OHL draft, defenseman Ty Nelson had the world in front of him as he looked forward to his rookie campaign last year in North Bay. And then - well, you know what happened; there was no season.

"At the beginning it was pretty tough: you get drafted, you're so excited, then boom - the season gets postponed," Nelson said. "But you look at it like a learning curve. Every time it got postponed, it meant more time to train and prepare. 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."

So far, Nelson's strategy has paid off: Now that the OHL is back for the 2021-22 campaign, he's been one of the top scorers among defensemen in the league with 26 points in 32 games and the Battalion are enjoying their best season in years. And this is Nelson's NHL draft season, where he's looking like a first-rounder right now.

"I really like him," said one NHL team scout. "Every game I've watched him he has improved. For a guy who has been tagged by some as an offensive defenseman, I think his defensive game is underrated. He really uses his feet and his stick and he plays physical to deny space and get on the man. He's a pretty good player."

With no season to play in 2020-21, Nelson used last year to get bigger and stronger and now comes listed at 5-foot-10 and 197 pounds. That's a pretty significant jump from when North Bay originally drafted Nelson at a little over 5-foot-7 and 174 pounds less than two years ago. The Toronto-area product also took time to improve on the mental side of his game. Nelson read 'Relentless,' the memoir by former NFL wide receiver and Super Bowl champion Julian Edelman, and also played a lot of chess and cribbage - which he had a very interesting and specific rationale for doing.

"Just learning how to pick up numbers quickly helped me as a defenseman," he said. "When you're gapping up, if you know you've got five guys in front of you, then you're good to keep going and help establish a better gap."

Of course, the big draw to Nelson is that offensive spark he brings from the back end and it's probably no surprise that some of his favorite NHL players to watch right now are in Colorado: Cale Makar and Bowen Byram. He particularly appreciates their amazing skating abilities and their hockey IQ and vision.

Nelson continues to work on his own defensive play and his penalty-killing acumen and no doubt scouts are going to keep a keen eye on his development in the second half of the season, though he's not stressing about draft rankings or Internet buzz. The one bit of chatter he can't ignore however involves his very distinct hairstyle.

"Ever since I was younger I would always dye my hair before the season," he said. "The more the season goes, the hair starts growing out and the flow gets going with the natural curly hair. People either love it or hate it and I do get chirped for it."

But if Nelson continues to put up numbers and shore up his defensive game, NHL teams aren't going to care about what's going on under the helmet; they're just going to love what the kid brings to the ice.

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