Logan Nelson Brings the Joy of Hockey to Wichita Thunder
An unknown author once said that “When Hell freezes over, I’ll play hockey there, too.” That is the very essence of Wichita Thunder forward Logan Nelson.
When one takes a close look at the 6-1, 223-pound forward, there is no doubt that he is a hockey player. And it isn’t just the missing two front teeth that lets you know that hockey is not only in his veins, but in his heart as well. It is a passionate love of the game that really drives him to play, and this is visible every time he takes the ice.
Have Stick Will Travel
Logan Nelson grew up in Rogers, MN, in the state of hockey. It seemed only natural that he would play the sport since it was so popular where he lived.
“I grew up in Minnesota, so I was always outside, whether it was on my skates or in my snow boots. So I always had a stick in my hand. I moved there (to Rogers) in the second grade, and played all my youth hockey there. Great small town.”
While playing many other sports growing up, when he got to high school it was time to make a decision on the sport he had a real shot of advancing in, and hockey seemed the most logical option.
Following his ninth grade year, Logan opted to take hockey a lot more seriously. He joined the Russell Stover U16 team in Kansas City. It was his first opportunity to be away from home to pursue his dream and he relished the opportunity.
“I played all the other sports up until my ninth grade year in high school. It was then that I decided to focus on hockey. It kind of gave me the opportunity to leave home and branch out on my own, and I took advantage of it and never looked back.”
Logan would spend one season in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, where he tallied 18-goals and 17-assists in 38-games.
It was an outstanding start to his career and the next season, the forward would move to the United States Hockey League (USHL), playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers. In 41-games, Logan posted 6-goals and 3-assists. It was not the season that he was hoping for, but he showed enough promise that the Victoria Royals in the Western Hockey League (WHL) added him for the next season.
The WHL is well-known as a league that produces future stars. In fact, one out of every five players that is currently on an NHL roster came out of the league. This was an opportunity to show that he had the talent and Logan did not disappoint.
In his first season in the WHL, the forward played in 71-games, scoring 23-goals and adding 39-assists. The 62-point season was quite impressive to say the least, and that earned him a lot of attention including by NHL scouts. Following the 2011-12 season, Logan was drafted by the Buffalo Sabers in the fifth round.
He would spend two more seasons with the Royals, playing in 49-games in 2012-13 and 59 in 2013-14. His most productive of those two seasons was in the latter campaign when he scored 23-goals and tallied 31-assists. He also performed quite well in the playoffs that season, scoring 3-goals and adding 4-assists in eight post-season games.
The Path to Wichita
After three seasons in the WHL Logan Nelson would be moving on. He was not signed by the Buffalo Bills following the 2013-14 season and was out on the open market. Looking for a fresh start, the forward signed with the Quad City Mallards of the East Coast Hockey League for the 2014-15 season. He would appear in 43-games that year, netting 16-goals and adding 12-assists.
Logan began the 2015-16 season with Quad Cities as well, playing in 7-games and adding 5-points. He would then be traded to the Wichita Thunder where he would finish out the season. In 47-games last season, Nelson scored 9-goals and had 16-total points.
During the off-season, new Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron resigned Logan for the 2016-17 ECHL season. With the scoring tough that the winger/center has as well as his ability to battle in the corner, he became the perfect addition for the team.
“Logan has good size and was a solid offensive contributor in Junior and his first year,” explained the Head Coach. “He didn’t have the season he wanted last year and is very motivated for this upcoming season. He fits the mold of the type of player’s we want here with the Thunder.”
Just four games into the season, the forward has appeared in two of those contests, as Cameron is working to figure out how to best utilize the players on his team. This has meant that Logan is being used in a variety of roles, and that is perfectly fine with him as long as he can help out.
“The coach likes fast guys who can skate and can make plays with the puck in small areas and that is perfect for me. Everyone is good here. You’re not going to be on a bad line here. Everybody can play the game and knows the game and so if I work hard here I will be fine wherever I wind up. Coach likes East-West plays trying to get the defense moving, opening up to a 2-1. I play how he likes and I am trying to stay in the lineup as much as possible.”
It’s All About Opportunity
At just 23, Logan Nelson is as veteran on the team. With three full seasons in the ECHL and a great deal of experience in the WHL, he has quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the club. It is not only his experience, but the approach that he takes with the team that is quickly earning him a reputation as one of the guys that teammates love to have on the club. It’s the reputation that he is seeking to develop.
“I am one of those kind of guys who likes to grind it out in the corners. I look at guys in the NHL who are like that and I try to emulate what they are doing. I know that these are the kind of players that teammates really love to play with because of how they are off of the ice as well, and that is the kind of guy I try to be in the locker room. Be a friend to everybody, work hard every day, bring a smile to the others guys’ faces when they are having a bad day.”
While being a guy that does the grunt work on the ice and who teammates love to have on their side, he also understands that his time in Wichita is an opportunity to get noticed. With the Thunder becoming an affiliate of the Ottawa Senators this season, this is a golden opportunity that he acknowledges everyone on the team is trying to take advantage of.
“It’s an opportunity for me and for others, but my focus right now is here with Wichita, giving myself a chance to succeed at the next level. I try not to think about it too much. There is going to be guys going up and coming down and so I just come here and play hard and do what I can to give myself a chance to make it to the next level.”
While wanting that call up, that opportunity to move to the next level, Logan truly understands his skill set and is playing to his abilities. He is a very self-aware person who knows that if he is going to advance to the NHL one day it will be within the character of the young man that he has grown to become.
“Everybody is trying to do the right things here at the rink and away from the rink to get noticed and move up to the next level. I think it is just as good to not worry about things and to just be yourself and do what you do every single day. If you do that and you can go home every day and look in the mirror and say you gave it everything you got then that is what I try to do. If that doesn’t work out in the end, then it doesn’t work out but I am going to have fun here while I am doing it.”
Fun is really what it is all about for the Thunder forward. There is no doubt that Logan Nelson is enjoying himself very much each time he takes a step onto the ice. He is loving playing hockey and it shows.
There is also no doubt that he is working as hard as anyone to get to the next level. It’s not easy grinding it out in the corners, getting cross-checked and slammed, but Logan is relishing the role.
“I never shy away from it. Somebody’s got to do it, so I am never going to shy away from it. I’ll do it every time.”
There isn’t very much that Logan Nelson shies away from. He is chasing after his dream to make it to the NHL with the same gusto that he uses when he speeds into the corner and battles for a loose puck. If he makes it to the next level is anyone’s guess at this point, but there is no doubt that he will be having a whole lot of fun along the way. The hockey smile will say it all.
By Robert Pannier