The Buffalo Sabres this afternoon signed Casey Nelson to an entry level contract. The
24-year-old 23-year-old right-handed defenseman just finished his junior season at Minnesota State University-Mankato in the WCHA conference.
Nelson (6'2", 182 lbs., 7/18/1992) led the Mavericks defense that held the defensive record among all NCAA teams of allowing the fewest shots per game. He was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, and was also on the All-WCHA First Team.
The Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin native scored a total of 60 total points (14 goals & 46 assists) during his 99-game college career, with a +28. In 2015-16, Nelson ranked in the top five in team scoring in goals (6), assists (16) and points (22), and led all Mavericks skaters with a plus-15 rating. Minnesota State ended the regular season in second place, and lost in the title game to Ferris State over the weekend.
Sabres General Manager Tim Murray had this to say about Nelson -
"We've been consistently impressed with Casey's play for the last two years. We identified him as one of the top college free agents available and we're excited to have him join the organization."
Earlier, media sources had identified Nelson as a prospect to keep an eye on -
Hearing Minnesota St D Casey Nelson -- one of top available NCAA FAs -- is listening to NHL offers. Can go back to school for one more year.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 20, 2016
Prospect analysis site Hockey's Future had also touted Nelson very highly -
One of the hottest commodities on the college hockey free agent market this season is Minnesota State-Mankato junior defenseman Casey Nelson. The Wisconsin Rapids, WI native enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore and has developmentally built on that this season. Nelson currently leads the Mavericks in scoring by a defenseman with 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 34 games to date. He also leads the team with a +14 rating.
Nelson is a 6'2", 182-pound offensive defenseman. His superb combination of fluid skating and puck-moving ability has scouts clamoring to get glimpses of him. Nelson is an excellent skater who has good speed and agility. He is blessed with great hands, moves the puck exceedingly well and has shown that he can make some beautiful, tape-to-tape passes. He can also quarterback the power play. In addition, Nelson can get pucks to the net and his shot is quite good.
One notable area where Nelson has steadily improved and developed is in his defensive positioning. He has learned to use his frame, strength and reach more effectively in keeping opposing players to the outside while taking away open spaces.
While Nelson is right-handed and does not fill the left-handed defenseman void in the Sabres backline, he is definitely an exciting prospect and keeps the d-man cupboard well-stocked.