Brock Nelson became a full time NHL player this season with the New York Islanders, putting up 20 goals and 42 points in the process. He then followed that with six goals and nine points in nine games at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Clearly elated with Team USA’s 3-0 bronze medal victory, Nelson shared his thoughts on the tournament after the game.
Hockey’s Future: That bronze medal sure does look good on you, Brock. How are you feeling right now?
Brock Nelson: It’s a good feeling. This is a good way for us to end this solid tournament on a high note. It was a great way to bounce back after the disappointing loss to Russia in the semifinals. We’d have loved to play for gold, but going home with a bronze is definitely rewarding and a great thing for USA Hockey. Coming in, I don’t think many people gave us credit or expected us to achieve what we did. Today we did a very good job, everyone had a lot of energy, everyone was playing great – this is a top experience.
HF: You were at the Worlds for the first time last year. Now you’re one of the ‘old’ men on the team. What does it mean for USA Hockey to come here with so many young guys, five college kids, at least one still looking to get drafted, and walk away with this medal?
BN: It goes to show how good the up-and-coming youth is. This is obviously a step in the right direction internationally. Top to bottom, everyone here plays hard and plays this game at a high level. So even those college kids you were able to see are going to be great players for a long time, even beyond college. Overall we were a good group of guys who liked to have fun. We kept it light and kept ourselves in high spirits. I think that was an important thing for us. That’s what really held it together.
HF: As someone who has a little bit of NHL experience, what can you say about your linemate Jack Eichel and also Dylan Larkin, who is only a little bit older than Jack, to be able to come here and do what they have at their age?
BN: Great young players with a lot of high-end talent. I was fortunate enough to be on a line with Jack and got to see firsthand just how immensely talented this guy is. The speed, power and vision he has are things not many people have and he’s going to be great player already next year in the NHL. That’ll be a lot of fun to watch. Same thing with Larkin, too. Top skater. Great vision. Can do anything with the puck. They’re both only going to get better with time. This is the first step for them in breaking out. Expect more of the same.
HF: With the exception of about five minutes against Team Russia, Connor Hellebuyck has been nothing short of fantastic the past two days. What’s your take on him and what you’ve seen at this tournament?
BN: He’s our best player. He’s the reason we’ve made it this far. He’s the reason we were able to win a medal. He’s made the key saves numerous times to keep us in tight games. He did the same today against the Czechs, getting the shutout. When you get that from your goalie in a tournament like this, you can ride that a long way. We were a couple of shots, a couple of saves, away from playing for a gold here. At the same time, we’ll happily take the bronze and he was our leader on the backend.
HF: You established yourself as an NHL player this year and now you’re going home with the medal. How big has this season been for you?
BN: It’s been a big year and a lot of good things happened. You never want to end your season short and my team unfortunately lost in Game 7 of the playoffs. I took some good strides in development. Obviously, you never stop learning. Now it’s time to reassess everything and take a break; get home and see some family and friends. Then get back at it in the summer.
HF: Excited about the New York Islanders move to Brooklyn?
BN: It’ll be big. A new building and some new experiences, but hopefully the tradition will carry on. Our fan base is very passionate, so I expect them to follow us along. I’m definitely looking forward to that in the fall.
HF: Watching you play, it’s sometimes easy to get you confused with John Tavares a bit with respect to your style. You spend every day playing with him. What has he meant for you breaking into the NHL with the Islanders?
BN: Great role model. He’s the type of guy you can idolize, putting on such great displays of ability and talent at the NHL level. Just seeing his work habits every day has been big. All throughout practice, at every practice, he’s just so professional. This is something that rubs off on the young players and is something that we can take notes on and emulate. He’s our catalyst and a guy whose footsteps you want to follow in.
Also ecstatic about this medal was Connor Murphy, who has spent a number of years playing for various USA Hockey teams, having won both U18 and U20 gold along the way. After seven points in 73 NHL contests for the Arizona Coyotes, Murphy assumed a top six role for this US team.
HF: Your thoughts on this bronze medal victory?
CM: Well, this team is a really close-knit group. We’re really proud of this achievement, even if it’s bronze and not gold per se. It’s not the color we wanted, but we’ll sure take it and be happy.
HF: Was it an easy decision to come to the World Championship after a disappointing season for the Arizona Coyotes?
CM: I think it was and I speak for probably everybody over here. I’m never going to turn down the opportunity to represent my country, especially at such a young age. You want to seize every opportunity you can. We haven’t had a great track record of getting medals at this tournament, but hopefully we can turn that around. We’re all really proud and really want to win medals for our country.
You’re disappointed not to be in the NHL playoffs, but this is then the next best thing. It allows you to shake off the disappointment of an NHL season and get back onto a winning track. Wrapping up the year representing your country is an emotional and pride-filled feeling.
HF: And you were so close to playing for gold…
CM: Yes, we were really frustrated with playing so hard and leaving yesterday’s game empty-handed. So we’re all the more proud that we could turn things around after such an emotional loss to get this win today.
HF: There were huge generational differences today. Team USA is so young and the Czechs have a lot of older players, none older than Jaromir Jagr.
CM: It’s a huge difference. I’ve been seeing Jagr in the NHL all my life. Jakub Voracek is an incredible player. I play with Martin Erat in Arizona and he’s an excellent player. Just to name a few. They’re great players who have been having an impact on the game of hockey, also internationally, for such a long time. This made it a lot more fun to compete against them.
HF: It wasn’t too long ago that you won gold with Seth Jones at the U18 and then the U20 tournaments. Is it kind of surreal to be growing up together in these different events with USA Hockey?
CM: You know, it really is. And when they put a team together for the WC, there’s not much time to prepare, so it’s good when a number of the guys already have experience with each other and know how to play together. This shows on the ice. We all want success for each other and we learned how to win together at such U18 and U20 tournaments. And heck, we really enjoy winning and playing for our country.
HF: So other than celebrating, what’s on tap for you this summer and heading into next fall?
CM: I’m going to relax a bit and take it easy. I also have to get my wisdom teeth taken out, so that’s not going to be any fun. But I’m going to enjoy this and then get back to training and preparing for next season, which will be a huge year for me.
For Steve Moses, this has been a special tournament. After three years of playing for Jokerit in Finland, the most recent one played in the KHL where he led the league with 36 goals in 60 games (along with 21 assists), he’s now signed a contract with the Nashville Predators and has played his first WC tournament.
HF: What can you say about this bronze medal you’re now wearing?
CM: Well, we’re not completely satisfied, because we wanted to play for gold. But this is quite an accomplishment winning the bronze medal. We’re happy about it, but not satisfied.
HF: How exciting a season has it been for you?
CM: Playing for Jokerit was a lot of fun. It was a huge year in my career. That I then got added to Team USA is a great honor and something I’ll remember and appreciate long into the future.
HF: You played and lost to Russia yesterday. What did the game mean for you considering you’ve faced many of those guys in the KHL?
SM: It was a special game for me. I’ve played against and battled those guys all season. They have four or five guys from (KHL champion) SKA St. Petersburg and we played against them like 5 or 6 times this season. For me, the Russians are a special opponent and we played them twice in this tournament. They have great players and I wish them the best of luck this evening when going for gold.
HF: You’ve taken an alternative route to the NHL. Have you talked with teammate Seth Jones at all about life in Nashville and the organization?
SM: While here, a little. Part of my decision to go there came after talking to people around the league and all I’m hearing is that they’ve got a great thing going there and everyone is enjoying it. Seth has said the exact same thing. Great people all around the organization. I’m very excited about it.
SM: Yes, I have. All those guys are incredible players and it’s great to go to an organization that has that type of depth and serious talent.
HF: What’s on tap for you this summer?
SM: I’ll enjoy this medal and then I’ll take a couple of weeks off. Then it’s back to training and preparing for the future. It’s a big challenge that awaits me next fall.
Follow Chapin Landvogt on Twitter via @