NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It didn’t take long for second-round selection Danny Nelson — the Islanders did not have a first-round pick for the fourth straight year — to have his first wish in the organization fulfilled.
Nelson is from Maple Grove, Minnesota, and the Islanders had four Minnesotans on last season’s squad, including Zach Parise, Nelson’s favorite player growing up.
“I don’t know any of them,” said Nelson shortly after being selected 49th overall as the NHL Draft concluded with rounds two through seven on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. “But I’m kind of looking forward to getting to meet them. Especially Anders Lee. Obviously, he went to Notre Dame.”
That’s where Nelson, a 6-3, 202-pound center who doesn’t turn 18 until Aug. 3, is headed in the fall after two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team.
Sure enough, as soon as Nelson stepped down from the podium after speaking with the media, he was handed a cell phone by an Islanders’ employee.
It was Lee wanting to speak with him.
It may be some time before Nelson — who told NHL teams during pre-draft interviews he tries to play like the Islanders’ Brock Nelson, no relation but another Minnesotan — is on the ice with Lee after compiling eight goals and nine assists in 23 USHL games last season.
“Go to Notre Dame, develop there,” said Nelson, who was used as a defenseman his final year of high school hockey. “Play there for potentially a couple of years until whenever the Islanders need me. [Playing defense] gave me a great perspective on being able to see both sides of the ice and see the game in a different way. It helped me playing center in the defensive zone.”
The Islanders also selected Finnish left wing Jessi Nurmi in the fourth round, center Justin Gill, who had 44 goals and 49 assists in 68 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, in the fifth round, USNDT defenseman Zachary Schulz in the sixth round and Swedish defenseman Dennis Good Bogg in the seventh round.
“Our scouts are really excited about our second pick,” Islanders president/general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “They feel that he’s a real good prospect. And what we were able to get were two different types of defenseman. One a stay-at-home (Schulz) and another offensive (Good Bogg). And the forwards all have speed, which is what we wanted to accomplish. When your scouts feel good, you feel good.”
Islanders’ 2023 draft picks
No. 49 (second round): C Danny Nelson, USA Under-18 – The 6-3, 202-pound left-hander from Maple Grove, Minnesota, had eight goals and nine assists in 23 USHL games and patterns his play after the Islanders’ Brock Nelson. He will play at Notre Dame.
No. 113 (fourth round): LW Jessi Nurmi, KooKoo Kouvola (Finland) – The 5-10, 165-pound Nurmi will remain in Finland for the next two seasons after playing seven games with an assist in his country’s top league.
No. 145 (fifth round): C Justin Gill, Sherbrooke (QMJHL) – The 6-1, 190-pound Gill, 20, completed his fourth season of junior hockey with 44 goals and 49 assists in 68 games.
No. 177 (sixth round): D Zachary Schulz, USA Under-18 – The 6-1, 195-pound Schulz is a strong skater with good size and a good shot who had three assists in 19 USHL games.
No. 209 (seventh round): D Dennis Good Bogg, AIK (Sweden) – The 6-1, 192-pound Good Bogg spent time last season in both Sweden’s junior and main league, notching four goals and 24 assists in 39 games with AIK Jr.