Nash His Own Man

Riley Nash is one of my favorite Oiler prospects for many reasons: he has a wide range of skills (meaning he can get to the show at more than one position and spot in the batting order), he’s intelligent (no flies on Cornell grads, although Ken Dryden might bore them to death) and he displays some independent thinking (unusual in hockey players).

Nash has been something of a challenge for the organization because of his choice of college (Cornell’s a ticket to ride but they don’t play as much hockey as the hockey hotbeds like UND and Michigan) and his frame (Nash had gained only 6 or 7 pounds one year after his draft day).

At the recent prospects camp Nash showed up heavier and the organization seems a little more sold on him than they were in the winter. Oiler Minister of Information Kevin Prendergast: “He does a lot of things really well at both ends of the ice – he’s a good face-off guy, he’s a good powerplay guy, he’s a good penalty killer. He’s the type of player that’s going to play anywhere from your second to your fourth line when he gets here because he understands the game so well.”

He’s headed back to Cornell at last report and they’ll decide (he’ll decide) next spring or summer about turning pro. We picked Chris Higgins as a comp for Nash awhile back, and I thought it would be an idea to check in and see how he’s doing:

Age 18
  • Riley Nash 36gp, 12-20-32 .889ppg 31.37%
  • Chris Higgins 27gp, 14-17-31 1.15ppg 33.33%

Age 19

  • Riley Nash 36gp, 13-22-35 .972ppg 38.04%
  • Chris Higgins 28gp, 20-21-41 1.46ppg 33.88%

Higgins went from college to the AHL where he played two full seasons in the minors before becoming an NHL player. Nash is behind him in these two seasons (the percentage of offense for Higgins is skewed because he was playing fewer games each season) but I think it represents a nice comp. Yale versus Cornell, both first rounders, both C’s in college and both emerged as top offensive talents for their teams early. Nash may be a little shy offensively when compared to Higgins, but as mentioned earlier his wide range of skills mean he can make the NHL in a variety of roles.

It does appear Nash will have some competition for pro center when he arrives and that could be an issue for him. If we make a depth chart of 8 (four NHL, four AHL) each season, Nash will be incoming along with Chris Vande Velde and Teemu Hartikainen. Linus Omark is also scheduled to appear and the Oilers have Milan Kytnar turning pro this season. It’s especially important for Nash to play center as (from KP’s comments around Christmas) one of Nash’s weaknesses (and a contributing cause to his not being selected for the WJ’s) is his inability to play wing.

Nash will join Andrew Cogliano and Marc Pouliot as centers who lose effectiveness on the wing when he turns pro. I remain convinced he is a player who may get traded before he plays for the Oilers (based on comments from the organization dating back some time). Nevertheless, he remains on track as an NHL prospect and has not experienced a major injury of lapse in performance. The arrows are pointing in the right direction for Riley Nash.

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