There are no bad days as far as Seattle Kraken prospect Ty Nelson is concerned. 

Sure, some are better than others. But Nelson, currently a defender for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, is so upbeat and positive that North Bay general manager Adam Dennis queried to his defense coach about three quarters through his first season in North Bay: “Does Ty ever get upset or down?” 

The answer was a definite, “No.”

“He’s always having a good day,” Dennis said. “Not everybody’s like that. Some guys have bad days, and I’m sure Ty does as well, but he just wears it a lot better than the rest of us. When you have that constant positive person around, it’s infectious. You can’t help but have it rub off on you if you’re one of his teammates, and we’re lucky to have him in our dressing room.”  

Nelson has plenty to smile about in North Bay, this season in particular. A third-round draft pick by the Kraken in 2022, the defenseman boasts 19 goals, which leads all defensemen in the OHL, and 60 points, second behind Ducks prospect Pavel Mintyukov amongst OHL defensemen. Nelson also tallied his first career hat trick on Sunday in North Bay’s 9-1 shellacking of Kingston. 

“It was nice to obviously just see the puck going in the back of the net on the power play (on Sunday),” Nelson said.  “I mean, our power play has been struggling a little bit. So it was nice to see that it was clicking last night. I was just getting the perfect passes from guys, which allowed me to get the one-timer off.”

Nelson was decent offensively, but not outstanding in his draft year last season with nine goals and 41 assists, perhaps why the smaller Nelson—he’s listed at 5-foot-10—wasn’t a first-round pick. He’s on pace to obliterate those yearly marks this season. 

The secret? Nelson is shooting. A lot. 

With 234 shots on goal, the 18-year-old blueliner not only leads all defensemen but all players in the OHL. 

That trigger-happy mindset was born during the playoffs last season, with the Battalion’s coaching staff nudging Nelson to shoot more. 

“I just kind of took that feedback and ran with it,” Nelson said. “(I just worked) on my shot every day after practice, trying to build it to be more effective.”

The Battalion is deploying Nelson’s heavy shot more frequently, too. 

Nelson is playing a new role on North Bay’s power play this season, moving from the top near the blue line to the left flank. His main goal: teeing up one-timers like Alexander Ovechkin.

“In the pre-game meetings, our coach will be like, ‘Listen, you’re Ovi tonight. You just sit there and hammer one-timers,” Nelson said. 

While Nelson is regarded for his ability to activate and drive offense, he’s drawn praise from pundits and his coaching staff for his defensive play, despite being on the smaller side — although it does help that he’s listed at nearly 200 pounds. 

“I think his mobility and, believe it or not, his physicality [make him a good defenseman],” Dennis said. “Even though maybe not the tallest guy, Ty is a really strong kid. I’ve always said, ‘Well, would you rather get hit with a door or a bowling ball?’ Ty would definitely be the bowling ball, and Ty comes fast and he comes hard and he certainly doesn’t get pushed around. He does the pushing around in front of the net.”

The Battalion, which feature two Kraken prospects in Nelson and forward Kyle Jackson, are currently second in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and primed for another deep playoff run. Last year, North Bay was swept in the Conference Finals by eventual Memorial Cup Champion Hamilton.

A deep playoff run would mean a lot to Nelson. 

“It’s something we’ve been building for a long time here,” he said. “It’s been brewing here for about four years, with all the drafts and the trades that we’ve been making. You know, North Bay is such a hockey town; it’d be unbelievable to bring it back here. For all the dedication and hard work that the guys, the coaches, and the whole organization staff is putting in, it’s something I think that we can really strive for and honestly deserve.” 

It’s been quite the journey to North Bay for Nelson. The native of a rougher part of Toronto, Ontario, Nelson didn’t grow up in an overly affluent family and wasn’t blessed with the same opportunities as some of his peers. 

But it didn’t stop him from making it to the OHL. In fact, Nelson was a highly regarded prospect, going No. 1 overall in the OHL draft in 2020. He drew interest from some NCAA programs, but as Nelson says, “You can’t turn it down when you’re picked first.”

“There are still some days where I’m like, ‘Wow, you did that,’” Nelson said of being picked first.

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That momentum was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which canceled the 2020-21 season and Nelson’s first in the OHL. 

“I was so fired up, ready to go, and then just it doesn’t happen,” Nelson said. “But you can’t feel sorry for yourself. Everyone in the world was going through it, and I just looked at it as an extended offseason.”

That aforementioned positivity is something Nelson brought with him immediately to the Battalion, asking a local food bank if he could help out in anyway, even though he was sheltering in place at his home in Toronto. 

Another anecdote that stood out to Dennis: When North Bay traded away forward Nicholas Sima to the Saginaw Spirit, Nelson spent the entire day consoling and spending time with the young girls that lived at Sima and Nelson’s billet house. 

“Nobody asked him to do this; it’s just one of things that Ty does,” Dennis said. “He was raised the right way and I give his parents all the credit in the world. He’s a first-class kid, and he leads in hockey and he leads off the ice on how you should be as a person, too.” 

Dennis believes the best is yet to come for Nelson. 

“The sky’s the limit for him. He’s gonna put the work in. He’s gonna find ways to get better. If he can’t do something now or if he’s not good at it, he’s gonna get better at it. And you know what? When you walk the walk like Ty does you’re gonna have opportunities for success regularly and we’re thrilled that we could be a small part in it.” 

Oh, and before we go: That fedora he famously wore at the 2022 NHL Draft, which was a gift from one of his billets, is still in his closet. He wore it on the first gameday of the season and is saving it for the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, if North Bay makes it that far. 

“It’s ready to go whenever it’s needed.”

Wright nursing injury

Kraken first-round pick and top prospect Shane Wright has missed six of the last seven games with a lower-body injury. Presumably picked up in a Jan. 22 contest against North Bay, Wright missed the next three games before returning with a goal and an assist against Sault Ste. Marie on Feb. 2. 

However, Wright also missed the next three games due to a lower-body injury. 

The injury woes slowed down a hot stretch for Wright, who has 11 points in his last five games.

Firebirds at AHL All-Star Classic; two players assigned to ECHL

Two Firebirds, Ryker Evans and Max McCormick, represented the Pacific Division at the American Hockey League All-Star Classic, which won the whole thing. 

The Firebirds will resume action on Friday against San Diego. While Coachella Valley’s six-game win streak and 14-game point steak ended on Jan. 28, the Firebirds are leaving the All-Star break red hot, having won 17 of their last 20 games. 

Meanwhile, the Firebirds assigned forward Jeremy McKenna and defenseman Jake McLaughlin to the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks. 

General musings on Kraken prospect pool

Yesterday, I stumbled upon Scott Wheeler’s prospect pool rankings at The Athletic, and noticed the Kraken were at No. 15, way up from dead last, No. 32, the year before. 

These prospect rankings don’t mean a whole lot to Seattle since it only has two drafts under its belt. But general manager Ron Francis and the scouting staff’s ability to impress pundits with limited opportunities to build prospect depth stood out to me. In just two years, there are plenty of really intriguing prospects in the system, and that’s even if you don’t include Matty Beniers. If you’re an Athletic subscriber, we recommend reading. 

Josh Horton
Josh Horton

Josh Horton is a freelance writer, former newspaper journalist, and erstwhile Western Hockey League writer for the Everett Herald and The Spokesman-Review (Spokane). He is NOT a juggler, nor is he a former professional baseball player. Follow him on Twitter @byjoshhorton.

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