The Colorado Eagles have been a dominant force in the Central Hockey League since the franchise began in 2003, but one player has always seemed to be at the center of their success.
Riley Nelson has been the very heart of the Eagles since he came to Colorado. Now, in this seventh pro season, Nelson is having the best years of his career.
With three games left in the regular season, Nelson, a center, has already scored 82 points, including 38 goals. He has also helped to lead Colorado to the best record in the CHL at 44-15-1.
In his four seasons as an Eagle, Nelson has had great success, reaching the playoffs every year and capturing a CHL championship during the 2004-2005 season. While playing for Colorado, Nelson has posted 131 goals, 187 assists and became the first player in Eagles history to reach 300 points with the team.
On Saturday, Nelson reached a major milestone, scoring his 500th career point. Because of all of his accomplishments, Nelson has been nominated as the CHL’s most valuable player.
Nelson, a native of British Colombia, gives credit for these accomplishments to Head Coach Chris Stewart and the players around him.
“Stewie (Stewart) seems to put the teams together every year,” Nelson said. “He likes a lot of speed, grit and character on every team. It has given me the chance to play with great players.
“Everywhere I have been, especially in Colorado, I have been given the opportunity to play an offensive role, which is the game I like.”
The Eagles are happy to have a player like Nelson in their organization.
“He is a very fun player to play with and makes stuff happen every time he is on the ice,” said Colorado center Chris Hartsburg. “He can skate like the wind and sees the ice very well. He makes it easier for a guy like me to play.”
Stewart knows how important the 5’9″ Nelson is to the team.
“Nelson has been one of the key figures on the club since he came here and one of the first guys I signed,” Stewart said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I think he does a lot for this hockey club on and off the ice.”
As the Eagles head into the playoffs, Nelson doesn’t see much a difference between the post and regular seasons.
“I don’t think alot changes,” Nelson said. “You just have to be more focused and you can’t make mistakes.”
Nelson said he believes Colorado could go all the way this season.
“We have a great opportunity to win,” the 29-year-old said. “We are getting guys back healthy and things are really starting to fall into place.”
Eagles beat reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riley Nelson by the Numbers
500- Number of Points in pro career, 219 goals, 281 assists.
456- Games played in career
83- Points scored this season, fourth in the CHL
8- Short Handed Goals, which leads the CHL
7- Seasons with at least 20 goals