Jaxon Nelson signs a free agent contract with the Boston Bruins. Photo by Craig Cotner.
Jaxon Nelson signs a free agent contract with the Boston Bruins. Photo by Craig Cotner.

Jaxon Nelson Signs with Boston Bruins

Minneapolis, Minn. – Jaxon Nelson did all he could down the stretch trying to get his college team to the Frozen Four next weekend. Nelson came back for a fifth season to captain Minnesota and scored 11 goals and two assists during the final eight game stretch that came up just short of advancing to St. Paul in a 6-3 loss to Boston University in the Sioux Falls Regional Final. Nelson now moves on to his next goal of playing professional hockey by signing a one-year, entry level contract with the Boston Bruins.

The Magnolia, Minn. native skated in 169 games for Minnesota tallying 42 goals and 47 assists and was one of the program’s most relied upon centers in the dot with a career face-off win percentage of 54 percent. Nelson will report to the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate in Providence on an Amateur Tryout (ATO) through the remainder of 2023-24.

The 24-year-old Nelson went undrafted as a younger player, but took part in a Washington Capitals development camp and drew the most interest from Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh before picking the Bruins. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound center played in every situation for Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko’s program, usually being the first center on the ice to kill penalties, taking draws to start power plays and provide a net front presence, sometimes being used to match-up against an opponent’s top line and sometimes being leaned upon to drive play offensively.

“Jaxon is a big, right shot, two-way center with leadership qualities as captain of a very successful collegiate program,” said Boston General Manager Don Sweeney in a Bruins release. “He has shown consistent growth throughout his time at the University of Minnesota and the Bruins are excited to have Jaxon join our organization.”

Nelson will start his professional career on an ATO in the AHL with the second place Providence Bruins and his ELC starts in 24-25 with an NHL cap hit of $870,000.

Nelson has been with Motzko for five of the coach’s six seasons with the Gophers and it has been a long road from when he committed to a Don Lucia coached program as a Luverne freshman to Dinkytown in 2015.

Motzko shared a story after Minnesota’s first round win over Omaha in Sioux Falls that it was Scott Owens who encouraged Motzko to keep Nelson in the pipeline despite putting up numbers that might have been concerning to outsiders. After scoring 137 goals and 121 assists for Luverne HS in 75 games, Nelson had just 15 goals and 20 assists in 112 games with Sioux Falls in the USHL.

“When I took the job, [Nelson] had his struggles because he was young when he left and Scottie goes, ‘don’t get rid of him… you keep him.’ I tip my hat to Scott,” said Motzko. “[Nelson] didn’t have the big points, but he is a ballplayer, he’s an athlete and he could pick up a baseball bat now and probably be in the minor league somewhere. He has heart, character… I couldn’t be more proud and happy for him.”

Nelson made a big impact on Gopher Hockey during his five years with the program as his freshman season was Motzko’s second year behind the bench when the team went 16-14-7 to miss the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. During Nelson’s sophomore year the program went 24-7 and went on to make the NCAA Tournament the next four seasons including two Frozen Fours.

“I’m very proud of the things that we accomplished as a team this year and all my years here,” said Nelson. “My freshman year wasn’t the best for gopher hockey… we didn’t really have that many fans coming to Mariucci… now usually it’s sold out.”