This is Riley Nash. He’s having a wonderful freshman season for Cornell. The “Big Red” are having a good year with a young lineup and are led in scoring by the Oilers first round pick (23gp, 10-11-21). Nash has 6 powerplay goals and has shown a penchant for scoring unassisted markers.
I’ve mentioned him so often that there is a worry about boring the reader, but frankly the guy is such an exciting prospect it’s difficult to avoid the subject.
First a quick thumbnail sketch on player style. Redline told us on draft day he was “a really well schooled, all-around player who can play it any way you want. Big, raw, naturally athletic kid who can skate, shoot and pass. Also likes to get his nose dirty” and stopped just short of calling him an impact prospect.
I think we might be close to calling him one. Nash is scoring at a .913/gme rate on a team that has scored 59 goals in 23 games (2.57 goals-per-game) which compares to Kyle Turris who is ripping up the NCAA this season as well. Turris’ numbers are 26gp, 11-18-29, 1.1154/game on a team that scored 89 goals in 30 games (2.97 goals-per-game). In plain English, Nash is a part of 36% of his team’s goals and Turris has been in on 33%. I’m not implying Nash is as good or even “in the range” but taken as a whole we can feel pretty good about including Turris in a conversation with Nash this deep into the season.
How does Nash compare to other 18-year old college prospects, perhaps players we’re more familiar with? Here are the same stats for Nash and several former Oilers draft picks:
- Mike Comrie 1.05, 31%
- Riley Nash .913, 36%
- Andrew Cogliano .718, 19%
- Shawn Horcoff .575, 16%
- Brock Radunske .317, 10%
A couple of points: The fact that these 5 actually played in the NCAA as 18-year olds is a tell. A lot of draft picks are in the BCJHL, AJHL, USHL and other leagues at that point in time. Oiler examples would be Chris Vande Velde and Colin McDonald from recent years. Also, we don’t know playing time which would certainly have had an impact on Horcoff and Cogliano. Both of them played for deep organizations and had more established players in front of them. Nash had older players in front of him, but none of the pedigree Horcoff (Mike York) and Andrew Cogliano (TJ Hensick) battled for playing time as 18-year old kids.
Nash is probably the best offensive prospect Cornell has had this decade. Here are the scoring leaders (by season) for Cornell since 2000:
- 07-08: Riley Nash (23gp, 10-11-21) .913, 36% A18
- 06-07: Topher Scott (31gp, 4-21-25) .806, 27% A21
- 05-06: Matt Moulson (35gp, 18-20-38) 1.09, 39% A22
- 04-05: Matt Moulson (34gp, 22-20-42) 1.24, 38% A21
- 03-04: Matt Moulson (32gp, 18-17-35) 1.09, 41% A20
- 02-03: Ryan Vesce (36gp, 19-26-45) 1.25, 34% A20
- 01-02: Sam Paolini (35gp, 15-18-33) .943, 28% A21
- 00-01: Stephen Baby (32gp, 8-19-27) .844, 37% A20
The obvious reason to rank him ahead of the other players on this list is age. Nash is the ony teenager in the group. Among the group of players who did lead Cornell in scoring, Moulson looks like he may have a career.
Much has been made of Cornell’s shorter schedule and the fact the Oilers may be better served by turning him pro early, maybe even as early as this summer. He might be better off moving to the CHL, since it’s extremely unlikely the Oilers will have room for him at the big league level fall 2008 and the AHL is probably too big a leap for him.
Still, he’s the one teenager the Edmonton Oilers will have to make some good decisions on this summer. He’s also a first round pick covering the bet, which has become more commonplace in the Kevin Prendergast draft era.