Wed Jun 06 11:16am EDT
After being passed over in last year's NHL entry draft in his first year of eligibility, Logan Nelson decided to make a change of scenery by leaving the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League to join the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League.
"I felt I needed a change of venue," says Nelson. "I knew the WHL develops players faster and gets them into the NHL. So I pulled the trigger and moved to Victoria."
This decision has paid off. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound centre excelled as a power forward with the Royals, scoring 23 goals and 62 points in 71 games. This was quite an improvement from his nine-point season in 41 USHL games the previous year.
Despite his success, Nelson noticed the WHL is tougher to play in than the leagues he played in previously. The native of Rogers, Minn., describes the WHL as being on a higher level of physicality and skill than the USHL.
"I think there are tougher players in the WHL than the USHL," says Nelson. "Both leagues are very structured, though. I just think the WHL is closer to the NHL in terms of physical play and skill."
Nelson, who turns 19 in September, was bumped up on the Royals' depth chart when they traded Buffalo Sabres prospect Kevin Sundher to the Brandon Wheat Kings at the trade deadline on Jan. 5. He didn't take this opportunity lightly, posting 10 goals and 26 points in 33 games in the last three months of the season. He also notched four assists in Victoria's four post-season games against the Kamloops Blazers.
"No one wanted to see Kevin go, but it was definitely an opportunity for me to step up," said Nelson in an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports in February. "I want to be a guy on this team that is on the ice in the last minutes. At the start of the year I had to work my way up, but I now feel I'm becoming that guy who can be looked upon to score when we need a big goal."
It seems Nelson will be selected by an NHL team the second time around on the draft floor. He was ranked 73rd among North American skaters by NHL's Central Scouting Service in their final set of rankings. This was a major improvement from 108th in their midterm report.
1. How would you describe yourself as a player?
"I'm a fast, physical forward with skill. I work with my teammates very well and try to put the puck in the back of the net."
2. Do you try to model your game after a player in the NHL?
3. Who is your favourite NHL team?
"My favourite team is the Philadelphia Flyers. I just grew up watching them a lot."
4. What is your favourite song or band you listen to before a game?
"Probably Levels by Avicii. I've been into that song lately."
5. A lot of players have left the USHL or forgone a NCAA scholarship for the CHL last summer — do you think this will continue to happen?
"I think if the CHL continues to produce players like they have been, young players won't have much of a choice if they want to get to the NHL."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen