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Islanders Alternate Captain Brock Nelson’s Quiet Leadership Speaks Volumes



AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Elmont, NY– While circling the concourses at UBS Arena, one of the most popular jerseys you see New York Islanders fans wearing is the No. 29 of Brock Nelson.

But as of the team’s season opener against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, all of those jerseys are now outdated. Along with the No. 29 on his back, Nelson will adorn the letter ‘A’ on his chest as the Islanders named him their newest alternate captain.

But while Nelson is only now officially being given the title, he’s quietly carried the label of a leader throughout his 10 years with the team.

“He’s just continued to evolve as a player and as a leader,” Islanders captain Anders Lee told NYI Hockey Now. “I think the biggest thing of all is that he does it by example. He’s always doing the right thing on and off the ice, and that’s easy for guys to fall in. He embodies that.”

The biggest impact Nelson has had on the Islanders is leading the team with 30-plus goals in each of the last two seasons. But despite that, he’s one of the NHL’s most underrated players. Even still, the Islanders are well aware of everything he brings to the table.

His ability to create space for his linemates and his ability to get the shot off, he’s constantly opening things up on the ice, and it makes things easier for them,” Lee said. “I think that can go underappreciated sometimes. It’s just so many simple, great little plays that add up to a great hockey game. He’s been doing that for us for a really long time now, and it’s starting to really pay dividends for him and us as a team. I think once you sit down and watch his game closely, you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy is a top player in the league.”

Pierre Engvall is an example of the influence Nelson has on his linemates and the Islanders in general. It took Engvall some time to adjust when he joined the team as a trade deadline acquisition last season, but he quickly found his footing once he was placed on a line with Nelson.

He’s a leader out there,” Engvall said. “He showed me how to play and that it’s about the way you play the game. He sets an example that way.”

That line, which also features Kyle Palmieri, was the Islanders’ most consistent throughout their playoff run in 2022-23 and is expected to be once again this season, in large part because of the threat Nelson poses to opponents.

“I want to continue to be aggressive,” Nelson said. “Playing with Palmieri and Engvall last year, I thought we did some good things, so we’re looking to build on that by taking another step offensively and trying to be dangerous.”

Quietly dangerous and quietly a leader.

It’s exactly who Nelson has been his entire career and who the Islanders need him to continue to be.

“We just want him to continue doing what he’s doing,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s been here a long time. He’s a leader. Leaders communicate, take people in and help others out. It’s just kind of what his makeup is.”




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