Riley Nash is the top ranked college player on my list and looks like he’s developing well. There is some hesitation to make any sweeping statements about improved development this season because his NCAA year is only 9 games old. However, the early returns are very strong and he’s been very consistent during his career at Cornell.
Nash has a wide range of skills. Redline Report told us before the draft that he was “a big, raw and naturally talented kid who can skate, shoot and pass.” He has become a quality faceoff man in college (over 53%) and has had an outstanding start on the powerplay: 2-6-8 in 9 games. Overall this fall Nash is 2-7-9 +3, a nice improvement from his first 9 games one year ago (3-3-6 +3). Nash is a cerebral player, regarded as a leader and solid decision maker.
The big news on the Riley Nash front this season is that he’s bigger, clocking in currently at about 6.01, 185. He played about 10 pounds lighter last season, causing the organization to worry openly about his ability to play at the pro level.
What can’t he do? Items often mentioned include lack of bulk (addressed by Nash, noted above) and a question mark as to just how much he can help a team offensively. Here are Nash’s career numbers in the NCAA compared to some other Oilers prospects over the years:
- Shawn Horcoff 155gp, 50-102-152 .981
- Riley Nash 81gp, 27-49-76 .938
- Chris Vande Velde 138gp, 40-49-89 .645
- Colin McDonald 135gp, 43-34-77 .570
- Brad Winchester 150gp, 40-44-84 .560
Recently, and for the first time I can recall since Shawn Horcoff starred in the NCAA, there have been whispers about Nash as a possible nominee for the Hobey Baker award. Quoting Guy Flaming from Coming Down the Pipe: I was speaking with a contact in the WCHA and asked him for his thoughts on Hobey Baker candidates and he not only said Nash might be ‘in the mix’ but that he was his choice to actually win the award.
Kevin Prendergast seemed impressed during this past summer, saying “he does a lot of things really well at both ends of the ice–he’s a good faceoff guy, he’s a good powerplay guy, he’s a good penalty killer. He’s the type of player who is going to play anywhere from your second to your fourth line when he gets here because he understands the game so well.”
In terms of comparables, I’ve always felt that Nash was a pretty nice match for Chris Higgins, although Higgins was superior in his 2 college seasons offensively. In an earlier post this fall, I reviewed my Oilers top 20 from 2003 to find 5 men who emerged as legit NHL players. My bet is that Riley Nash emerges as an NHLer and surprises more than a few people offensively.