Nelson, taken by the Islanders with the final pick of the opening round of the 2010 Entry Draft after tearing up the Minnesota high school ranks at Warroad High School, had a solid freshman year as UND made the Frozen Four. But it ended painfully -- Nelson was taken off the ice on a stretcher after going back-first into the boards during the Fighting Sioux's 2-0 semifinal loss to Michigan.
But as he showed this week during the Islanders' rookie development camp, there have been no lingering effects from the injury.
"I'm feeling a lot better now," he told NHL.com. "There's no pain. I'm all healed up."
Nelson had a solid first season with UND, totaling 8 goals and 21 points in 42 games on a veteran-laden team. With a number of those veterans gone heading into the 2011-12 season, Nelson knows his role and responsibilities are going to increase when he goes back to school this fall.
"The first year was good," he said. "It definitely built up as the year went on. We have a lot of skilled guys. We'll have a great team. It's going to be fun to be a part of it, with all the leaders we have there. It will be a little bit different team this year, but it should be equally as good."
"Brock looks like a totally different player. That's what happens when you're that size. He's got a long way to continue at North Dakota, but he's put on some muscle, he's put it on the right way. His stride looks stronger. He looks stronger on the puck, even after only one day when I've seen him on the ice. He's making a lot of strides." -- NY Islanders head coach Jack Capuano
Nelson has a long way to go to match those accomplishments. For now, he's content to enjoy his second camp with the Islanders.
The differences in Nelson from last year to this year are obvious. His weight is up to 191 from about 180 on draft day, though at 6-foot-3, he likely has to add another 10 to 20 pounds to compete for an NHL job.
"I'm trying to bulk up," he said. "I'm about 191 now, a little bit heavier than last year. I need a little more weight on the frame. That's the plan, and hopefully I'll be able to execute it."
Just as important, he's more relaxed this time around.
"It's a little bit different this year," he said. "I'm not so nervous. I know a few more of the guys, so that's a good thing. It's good to be back here and hang out with them -- it's been fun."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said the differences in Nelson from a year ago are noticeable -- and for all the right reasons.
"Brock looks like a totally different player," he said. "That's what happens when you're that size. He's got a long way to continue at North Dakota, but he's put on some muscle, he's put it on the right way. His stride looks stronger. He looks stronger on the puck, even after only one day when I've seen him on the ice. He's making a lot of strides."
Unlike many of the other players at this year's camp, Nelson has no illusions of jumping to the NHL this fall. He's looking forward to another season at North Dakota, which is expected to contend for its eighth national championship.
"It was a little bit of a jump," he said of the transition from high school to college hockey. "It took a little time to get used to, but I think I did that pretty well as time went on. I was able to step in and play a little bit more of a role with the team, and it was fun.
"This year, I have to keep building up the basics of the game -- strength, speed, size. Just keep on working on the important things to get to the next level – get back to North Dakota and do what I need to do. I haven't really worried about (making the NHL) too much. I just keep focusing on one year at a time."