Of all the prospects who attended USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in August, none had a greater connection to the camp's location, Lake Placid, N.Y., than Brock Nelson.
The 2010 first-round pick of the New York Islanders is part of U.S. hockey royalty -- his grandfather, Billy Christian, and great uncle, Roger Christian, played on Team USA's 1960 Olympic champion hockey team. His uncle, Dave Christian, played for the historic 1980 team that beat the Soviets and won gold in Lake Placid.
While this is Nelson's first trip to the hallowed Olympic town, he certainly has felt right at home.
"The famous picture of the pile-up they had after the game, it's everywhere," Nelson told NHL.com. "It's in the (Olympic) Training Center where we're staying, it's on the front of the rink. I see it everywhere. That's pretty cool.
"It's pretty special. Not many kids my age have that in their family history. I'm lucky to have that."
While Nelson enjoys talking about his family history and hearing all the stories, he's out to carve his own niche. A 6-foot-3, 205-pound center, the Islanders traded two second-round picks to the Chicago Blackhawks to move up and select the 18-year-old with the 30th pick of the draft after a season that saw him score 39 goals and 73 points for Warroad (Minn.) High School.
While playing at the Lake Placid camp and competing for a spot on the U.S. World Junior Championship team has been a major step up in competition, Nelson looked right at home. He scored an empty-net goal to cap a 6-3 win against Sweden and added a power-play goal from right in front of the net during a 6-3 win against Finland.
"He certainly hasn't seemed to miss a beat," U.S. coach Keith Allain said during the camp. "You wonder what it's going to be like for those (high school) guys, and he looks like a guy who's been playing at this level for a while."
Nelson said he was in awe when he first arrived in Lake Placid and saw the competition, but after the first day, he said, he was able to settle in.
"I've never been through the USA (Hockey) program, so this is a new step for me," Nelson said. "After the first day, I think the guys are great and being out here with them and being able to play, it's been pretty special."
It's also helped that he scored a couple of goals.
"It definitely helps, getting a couple under your belt," he said. "You start thinking you can do this every game and you go out there, play with passion and hopefully be able to do it every night."
Nelson also said coming from the Islanders' rookie camp in July helped him get used to playing against a higher level of competition.
"It helped me a little bit. The coach out there (Islanders coach Scott Gordon) gave me a few pointers on the ice about body positioning and little things like that, and I'm trying to put that into my game now and it's really helped me out," Nelson said.
The next place all his new-found knowledge will be put to use is at the University of North Dakota, where he'll play this fall.
"Give him another two or three years and the size he's going to put on, he's going to be a pretty big body," Gordon said. "I don't think he's even touched the tip of the iceberg with his ability."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com