Although the Amerks looked the better team for the majority of the night (Friday 12/1) they fell to Hartford in a 5-4 shoot out loss. However, there was much more to take away from this game than just a point. Seth Griffith looked phenomenal in his debut, and will likely be a key piece in Rochester this year. Also, Fasching and Rodrigues continued to impress earning both of them a call up to Buffalo. The only real letdown of the night (aside from a less than stellar performance from Wilcox in goal), was blue chip prospect Alexander Nylander. He looked un-invested in the game, didn’t forecheck with any intensity, and missed on a handful of scoring chances you would expect him to do better with.
Casey Nelson played a very solid game, but there was a few things he could have done better with as well; mainly avoiding the penalty box. The two tripping minors he took will drop his grade to a B.
The tripping minors that Nelson acquired no doubt stem from his defensive style. As player that consistently chooses to poke and play the puck instead of taking the body, he will naturally accumulate more tripping penalties. As of now, they represent 3 of the 6 minors he has been whistled for this year. Also, instead of lifting the stick and removing his man from the crease, Nelson chose to front him in order to deny access to the puck. It worked for him, but if Casey wasn’t able to block incoming shots he would only be providing a double screen for a shaky Adam Wilcox. Though it seems to be a stylistic choice for Nelson to avoid contact, he still executed very well. He was able to disrupt entry with his active stick and shut down shooting lanes to block shots consistently. He was always where he needed to be and did not turn the puck over at all.
Offensively, Nelson has taken tremendous strides from where he began last year as a rookie. The nonsensical and frustrating defensive zone turnovers have been completely removed from his game. Instead, he has replaced them with careful passes to clear the zone under pleasure, and some gorgeous tape to tape stretch passes in tight windows when given space. One stretch pass up the wing to Griffith turned a breakout into immediate offense as he was able to pick him out while Hartford was changing. He made a similar play a week before to assist Nylander on the opening goal of their 10-3 victory. It looks as if the game has finally started to slow down for Nelson and he is handling the puck with much more confidence then in his cringe worthy past performances.
Overall, Nelson is one of the best defensive prospects in the organization because he continues to improve. Any time you see a player turn a weakness into a strength in such a short period of time, it speaks to a fantastic work ethic. Before he makes the jump to the next level he will need to work on his physical play and showcase some ability to become a threat on the point. It may take some time, but by the start of the season next year, Nelson will be very close to NHL ready.