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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20 Responses to "Nash His Own Man"

  1. Yeti says:

    LT – sorry if this is common knowledge, but could you explain the 'trading before he plays a game' semi-prediction? It seems strange because we traded up in the draft to get the guy. Did I miss something?

  2. Lowetide says:

    Yeti: It comes from the Oilers (KP's) comments on Nash, especially last season. Nash is staying at Cornell which has a shorter season and until recently showed no ability to bulk up (the Niinimaki problem, or one of them).

    Since KP is like the "Barney" of hockey procurement (everyone is great) I take these comments to represent a real negative.

    Add that to the fact that he'll probably turn pro at the exact moment Vande Velde and Hartikainen do and I wonder if he's long for the Oilers.

    Like him plenty as a prospect, more than most I'd expect.

  3. Maz says:

    A lot of centers get moved to wing when going pro if they can't hack the additional defensive responsibilities of a center.

    So if he is unable to play wing, he better be really solid in his own end.

  4. Lowetide says:

    Maz: That is one of the reasons he was drafted in the first place (a wide range of skills). I also think it's probably a case of not being familiar with the position.

    Nash has done the things we'd hope for:

    1. Improved offensively (although not at a terrific rate)
    2. Stayed healthy
    3. Matured physically

    We might have to curb our enthusiasm about him being more than a 35-40 player (Marchant type) but with his range of other skills that's very useful.

    Desjardins NHLE for this past season: 10-16-26.

    Cogliano NHLE at the same age: 17-19-36.

  5. Don in real life says:

    Lowetide, I've never commented but I've been a long time reader, always entertaining. You should be writing for OilersNation.

  6. Traktor says:

    I doubt Edmonton takes Nash today if they had a second chance.

    I was hoping for a Horcoff/Richards hybrid when he drafted him but at this point he looks to be from the Marc Pouliot tree of usefulness.

    Aaron Palushaj and Max Pacioretty were drafted behind Nash but both went to Michigan to play for the Wolverines and now they're both ahead of the curve.

  7. Smarmy Boss says:

    Too bad Nash is a smart kid. Otherwise, it wouldn't be hard to convince him that HGH will solve his "lack of bulk" issues.

  8. Yeti says:

    "I was hoping for a Horcoff/Richards hybrid when we drafted him but at this point he looks to be from the Marc Pouliot tree of usefulness."

    Ouch!
    Perhaps we should give the guy a little more time before we damn him with the 'vanilla useful' tag. Development is not all linear and smooth, more peaks and plateaus. He could have a real dominating season at Cornell and then turn pro and live up to your lofty 'Horcoff/Richards' predictions. His recent comments after the development camp indicated that this may be his last year in college.

  9. Jonathan Willis says:

    LT: I know you've referenced him before, so was that KP title a quick comparison to an Iraqi we all know and love?

  10. Traktor says:

    "His recent comments after the development camp indicated that this may be his last year in college."

    The damage has already been done from the hockey development standpoint so he should stay at Cornell and get his degree. He'll need it.

  11. bookie says:

    Too bad Nash is a smart kid. Otherwise, it wouldn't be hard to convince him that HGH will solve his "lack of bulk" issues.

    Yes, he might have also walked away from his Education to play on a third rate AHL team that had almost no development oppertunities…

    The Oil don't seem to appreciate guys who take a balanced approach to growth.

  12. Bar Qu says:

    The Oil don't seem to appreciate guys who take a balanced approach to growth.

    Nor do many followers of the Oil either.

  13. Coach pb9617 says:

    Yes, he might have also walked away from his Education to play on a third rate AHL team that had almost no development oppertunities...

    It's pretty funny that people are upset with him for avoiding Springfield. The same people are pissed that Springfield has ruined Schremp. The same people are pissed at the Oilers because they won't let Omark avoid Springfield.

    Clowns to the left of me
    Jokers to the right

  14. godot10 says:

    Montreal's first round pick a month ago is going to Harvard.

    Nash's comments at the development camp suggests that he understand that there are 12 forwards on the team. I think he has the intelligence to see where the opportunity on the roster is, and go for it, to avoid a long stay in the AHL.

    (Gilmour came to the NHL as an undersized scorer, and saw that St. Louis needed a checking centre. Thus, Gilmour decided to be a shutdown centre. Intelligence is a wonderful attribute.)

    As long as Nash is ready by the time Horcoff is declining…i.e. he's got three more seasons.

  15. digger says:

    "The Oil don't seem to appreciate guys who take a balanced approach to growth.

    Nor do many followers of the Oil either."

    Not to come across as an apologist here, but the main goals of the Oilers, and any pro sports franchise would echo this, are the following:

    1) Make money.
    2) Win.

    From a team's perspective, the hard truth is that someone like Riley Nash is an asset. They wouldn't be doing their job if their main interest wasn't in maximizing that asset's value as a hockey player.

    They're not in the business of ensuring their college prospects get a degree, that's an ancillary concern and from their perspective I can understand that viewpoint.

    And to be frank, from my POV as strictly an Oilers fan, why should I care either? My only emotional attachment to Nash is in regards to how much he helps out the Oilers. If his priorities give a higher value to a Cornell degree than an NHL career, good for him but I'm not sure why I should care (again, strictly from a hockey fan's perspective).

  16. Coach pb9617 says:

    My only emotional attachment to Nash is in regards to how much he helps out the Oilers.

    I think the point that most people have here is that the Oilers aren't seeing the forest for the trees.

  17. doritogrande says:

    That he isn't expected to put up points at the NHL doesn't bother me in the least. Providing he can win a faceoff, he has immediate value to this team. It's certainly a unique skill among our young applicants for the center position.

    Gagner? Not an asset
    Cogliano? Downright Laughable
    Pouliot? Is it a proven asset?
    Hartikainen? Big body, but no reliable statistics.
    Kytnar? I'll admit I have no clue here.
    VandVelde? Faceoffs an asset.

    Sure he's not secured a spot on the roster based on Faceoff prowess alone, but it's a skill this Oiler team could certainly appreciate.

  18. doritogrande says:

    Oilers 2009 draft review is finally up on hockeysfuture.

    http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/11350/oilers2009_draft_review/

    Decent read, but I really do miss the reports Guy Flaming was well known for.

  19. Lowetide says:

    Jonathan: Yeah, it's a reference to the Iraqi information minister. That guy was terrific, I mean top drawer. Bombs zipping by his ear but he's hanging in "there's nothing to worry about, the infidels are on the run!"

    I'd pay money to have a cup of coffee with that guy. KP too, for that matter.

  20. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    A paen in his honour:

    Lowetide said…
    Jonathan: Yeah, it's a reference to the Iraqi information minister. That guy was terrific, I mean top drawer. Bombs zipping by his ear but he's hanging in "there's nothing to worry about, the infidels are on the run!"

    I'd pay money to have a cup of coffee with that guy. KP too, for that matter.

    http://www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com/

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