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Future Watch: Riley Nash

by Kristi Hennessy / Edmonton Oilers
Riley Nash has five goals and 14 points in 18 games this year.

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Riley Nash grew up playing hockey in his hometown of Kamloops, BC with his brother Brendon. They never played on the same team growing up but now play together for Big Red for the University of Cornell. The two brothers are quite different players, however, as Brendon is a defenceman who is two inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier than Riley.

Oilers Assistant GM, Kevin Prendergast is confident in Nash’s ability but admits his size is still a factor at this stage. He has however gained a few pounds compared to last year. He now sits at 6’1” and 179 pounds.

Last season was Nash’s sophomore season with Cornell. He averaged a point and penalty minute per game, good for first on the team in scoring. During his freshman year in 2007-08, led the Cornell Big Red in power play goals (7) and assists (20), earning him the Ivy League Rookie of the Year Award. Before going to Cornell, Nash dominated the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks for a season, posting 84 points and 87 penalty minutes in only 55 games, finishing among the league’s top 10 scorers. He was chosen as the 21st overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers.

Despite all these achievements, Nash’s proudest moment was when he got the opportunity every young Canadian hockey player could dream of. He got invited to try out for the Canadian team that would play in the World Junior Championships. He showed off his skills to Team Canada Coach Pat Quinn and says the entire experience was so exciting just to be around Quinn.

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Nash is currently in his third season with Cornell and has recorded five goals, nine assists for 14 points in 18 games and 31 penalty minutes. His brother Brendon has also reached double digits putting up two goals, and eight assists for 10 points. Riley is not on track for the points that he has recorded in his last two seasons but is still averaging a point per game and is sitting in fourth on his team in scoring.

“He got off to a little bit of a slow start,” said Prendergast. “It’s starting to wear on him a little bit. He’s going to sign a pro contract which wears on kids. Over the last three to four weeks he’s picked his game up. He’s an intelligent player. He’s smart, he’s got great hands, and he does all those little things well.”

Prendergast made a visit recently to watch Nash play and see how he is progressing. The Oilers management plan to sit down once his season is over to decide what is best for Nash – either one more year in Cornell or have him turn pro and see what he is capable of.

“We’ll talk to him, he’s well aware of what our thoughts are and where he should be,” Prendergast explains. “As we get to the end of the year when we have our organizational meetings, we’ll sit down and figure it out. Maybe it’s time to take him out and bite the bullet a little bit with him or should we just let him go for his fourth year next year with Cornell. Overall, he’s starting to play a lot better now.”

Riley Nash up-to-date stats:
  • Freshman 36gp, 12-20-32 on a team that scored 102 goals (31.4%)
  • Sophomore 36gp, 12-22-34 on a team that scored 92 goals (36.9%)
  • Junior 18gp, 5-9-14 on a team that scored 54 goals (25.9%)
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