The Pipeline: A conversation with Ty Nelson
At 5-foot-10, Ty Nelson may be considered small for a defenseman.
But that doesn’t mean he plays a small game. Far from it.
And Nelson, who models his game to the NHL blueliner Ryan Ellis of the Philadelphia Flyers, brings a lot of elements to the game to help ensure some success.
“I like to say I’m a two-way defenseman,” Nelson told Guy Flaming on The Pipeline Show. “I love to play in the offensive zone. I love to quarterback the power-play and then also I love playing the D-zone. Also being that shut-down defenseman when needed. I probably lead the league in blocked shots.”
Nelson, No. 35 in FCHockey’s Spring ranking for the 2022 NHL NHL Draft and slotted 25th among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm list, has a sturdy frame despite his stature, weighing in at 195 pounds. His offensive numbers were also impressive, posting 51 points (nine goals, 42 assists) in 66 games for North Bay Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League.
The 18-year-old Toronto, ON product attributes his offensive success from playing with skilled teammates throughout the season.
“My production has been great. I couldn’t be happier,” Nelson said. “I’m playing with amazing teammates that are unbelievably skilled and they’ve helped me out a ton. And especially just playing on the power play, just being with those top guys, it’s been able to help with my point production as well.”
Guy Flaming: For you, what do you consider to be the strength of your club?
Ty Nelson: I think just overall our whole team identity and the depth of our team as well. Our team identity is just, we call it the Battalion way, its hard-nosed hockey. You’re skating 110 percent on every play. You’re never giving up in the battle, and then the depth of our team, we have one of the best top lines in hockey. Our second, third, and fourth lines just follow up and contribute to the team. It’s been great for our team and our team’s success.
Guy Flaming: What were your expectations coming into this year?
Ty Nelson: Definitely just trying to do whatever it takes to get into the league, mold into the team, and then just play my game. My dad says it best…North Bay drafted me for a reason and that’s the way I play hockey and I’m going to continue to do that at this level because that’s why they drafted me. That was my expectation coming in. Obviously trying to help the team in whatever way I can. Help the team be successful, whether that’s contributing offensively or defensively and just trying to have a great season and get drafted as high as possible.
Guy Flaming: Was there a period of acclamation to the league? For a 16-year-old it might take them a couple of months to get up to speed at the OHL level. For you as a 17-year-old, I wonder if it was similar or do you think you felt a little bit more comfortable earlier on because you might be a year older?
Ty Nelson: I think it was kind of the same coming in as a 16 and 17-year-old, because we were just as new as the 16-year-olds were, right. For me, I felt my adjustment period wasn’t very long. I think maybe three or four games just to get the speed and the type of plays that were going on. Obviously throughout this whole year you were making and trying to better your game in that way because it’s still a whole different thing than playing minor hockey. And I tried to take advantage of COVID to try to get bigger and faster and stronger and I think I did a pretty good job of that and that’s what I felt helped my transition into the OHL.
Guy Flaming: Have you always been a defenseman, Ty or did you ever play up front or even throw the pads on?
Ty Nelson: I did play forward when I was really young. Once we got into the select age, my coach recognized that I was a good backwards skater and he wanted to utilize me on defense and he put me back there and I just fell in love with the position ever since.
Guy Flaming: The sheet I’m looking at says 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. Is that accurate, up to date?
Ty Nelson: Yeah, I’m 5-foot-10, about a buck ninety now.
Guy Flaming: The image I have in my head is a guy like Ryan Ellis, who’s an offensive guy and having a lot of success in the NHL and was a star at the Ontario Hockey League level. Not a tall guy, but not easy to push off the puck. I think you’re about 15 pounds heavier than he is, so you might not be the biggest guy out there but I’m sensing you’re winning a lot of puck battles because you’re not an easy guy to move around.
Ty Nelson: Yeah, actually it’s funny you say that. I like to say I model my game to Ryan Ellis.
Guy Flaming: How would you describe yourself as a player for those who haven’t seen you or maybe haven’t seen Ryan Ellis either?
Ty Nelson: I like to say I’m a two-way defenseman. I love to play in the offensive zone. I love to quarterback the power-play and then also I love playing the D-zone. Being that shut-down defenseman when needed. I probably lead the league in blocked shots.
Guy Flaming: On the power play, you’re not the guy pulling the trigger, you’re the one setting that guy up, correct?
Ty Nelson: Yeah, most of the time I’m the guy that’s setting them up, but I like to rip some through. Our forwards are great in front of the net and burying the rebounds.
Guy Flaming: All right Ty I have to ask you about the draft and whether it’s something you spend much time thinking about? What about for you?
Ty Nelson: I kind of say I’m like the other guys. I kinda put it in the back of my mind. Obviously it’s one of the biggest seasons of my life. Trying to get drafted into the NHL is probably one of the hardest things you can do. Probably the next hardest thing is making the NHL. It’s something I put in the back of my mind and I don’t really like to pay attention to it. You can’t stop from seeing it though. Other than that it’s just straight focus on today, what’s happening now and how I can get better.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.