Although he’s probably two years away, when Darnell Nurse arrives the Oilers should have most of an outstanding homegrown blue at the NHL level. Add Nurse to Justin Schultz, Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and one of Martin Gernat or Dillon Simpson and we’re talking about an impressive group of young defenders.
Darnell Nurse is the key. Why? Wide range of skills. Darnell Nurse is skilled, fast, big and tough. He’s the kind of defenseman Oiler fans have been watching on the other team for a decade–and those defensemen have gained fame by wrecking the brilliant skilled men sent over the boards by the Oilers.
Darnell Nurse is a lot of things, and above average in most of them. He may be a franchise defenseman.
BOB MCKENZIE #9
- Craig Button: Big, strong and competitive and he imposes himself on opponents. Very strong skater with quickness, agility and balance and he uses it very effectively to close on plays defensively and to move play ahead and out of his defensive zone. Has expanded his overall game and especially his offensive game to the point where he is demonstrating the ability of a top minute defenceman who can contribute in all areas. Darnell is a very well rounded and dependable player who plays with a competitive spirit that says ‘I’m here to do whatever is necessary to win.’ The type who can ‘log’ lots of important minutes in a game and these are valuable players in the NHL.
REDLINE REPORT #8
- Kyle Woodlief — USA Today: Next up is the huge and rapidly improving Darnell Nurse, who is the most naturally physical defender available. He made good strides in his offensive game and has a heavy shot that is an asset on the power play. He likes to dish out punishment along the walls and easily separates his check from the puck. Nurse also scores off the charts in both his character and intelligence levels, and at a gangly 6-5, already has the footwork of a much smaller man.
INTERNATIONAL SCOUTING SERVICES: #6
- International Scouting Services “Not only is Nurse an excellent 1 on 1 defender but he adds an intense mean streak to put fear in the opposition. He shows no hesitation in doing what it takes to win from blocking shots to dropping the mitts, Darnell was born to lead. Offensively he brings an arsenal of weapons whether it’s using his vision to find his man up ice or jumping up into the rush he continues to develop in these areas. He shows excellent mobility on the point and has great quickness for his size which makes him very effective in PP situations. He has a heavy shot but could stand to use it more often. Has all the tools to be a franchise defender and captain down the road.”
Eric Tulsky is doing insane work at various spots on the internet and he came up with a way to estimate ‘qual comp’ for defensemen in the CHL. The graph above estimates his ice-time (heavy, and we know he’s not on the 1PP) and that he’s playing against the 2nd toughest opponents. Now, this isn’t something we can say is absolute proof of defensive ability, but it does suggest he’s being relied on at a very young age. A nice arrow.
THE DRAFT #7 OVERALL
- Craig MacTavish: “He gives us an element we’re sorely lacking. He’s a guy who, over time, if we’re patient with him, is going to provide us with toughness. He’s a guy that will ride shotgun for a lot of our first overall picks and our skilled players for a lot of years. But our overriding draft philosophy is still to draft the player who is going to have the greatest impact on our team over time. Based on that philosophy, I still thought Darnell was the player who is going to have the greatest impact on our team.”
BY THE NUMBERS
- Darnell Nurse
- 6.05, 192
- 68, 12-29-41 116 (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
- NHLE: 82, 4-11-15
NURSE AT EVENS
Nurse didn’t get a lot of PP time–we know this just by reading about the Greyhounds–but did deliver well on the 2nd unit. At evens, his offensive output was strong and suggests that this coming season may season an offensive spike. Should that happen, the Oilers may have selected a player whose true offensive value was not on display during his draft season (although Nurse’s value to his team is going to be heavily defensive for his career based on what we know).
BROCK OTTEN, OHL PROSPECTS
- At this point, Nurse is definitely my top prospect available from the OHL. All season long, I wrestled back and forth between Monahan and Nurse. But it’s clearly Nurse now IMO. He possesses so much potential at the next level. He could be a perennial Norris candidate IMO. The thing I like most about Nurse is how much he improved this season from the last. You need to look at that progression and think about just how good he could be, if he continues to tap into his athletic bloodlines (father was a CFL player), and continues to improve. He’s certainly a potential dynamo at both ends of the ice. His size (6’5, pushing 200lbs), makes him an asset in the defensive end. As does his skating ability. He’s incredibly difficult to get around and he’s physical enough to intimidate. As he gets stronger, I expect his physical game to become more consistent and more effective. He certainly has the mentality to be a bruiser. In the defensive end, he’s still learning a bit. He can get caught out of position at times, but with strong coaching I think this improves. Offensively, he went through the biggest transformation this season. He looked very poised and confident with the puck and took chances in leading and joining the rush. His skating ability makes him a threat offensively. He’s also got an absolute cannon of a shot that will only get better as he gets stronger. His play on the powerplay is improving. This year, with Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller on the point, Nurse was relegated to the 2nd unit. Next year, it’ll be his show to run and I expect very big things from him. When all is said and done, Nurse has the potential to be one of those defenseman who doesn’t really have any holes in his game. He’s the complete package and I think he’s the 2nd defenseman off the board after Seth Jones.
- MacGregor: “Well with Mac, skill is really important to him. That’s something that he’s looked for. Obviously the other intangibles of character, hard work, quality of people and players who are passionate to play the game are important, but he really has a high regard for skill.”
I believe the scouts and MacTavish were torn on this selection, and I do believe they were close to taking Nichushkin. Given the opportunity to solve one of two problems (Complete defenseman, power forward) MacT went against the scouting philosophy of the Oilers (mentioned above) and took the blue. It’s a big deal because it runs counter to the Oilers draft history–they’ve long believed that taking a forward is the better plan. Math tells us that the forward is the better bet, and yet Darnell Nurse goes to the front of the line of defensemen that is rich and varied, and does it because of the wide range of skills.
Darnell Nurse has tremendous potential. If he can deliver, he’ll make Craig MacTavish look like a genius and help calm the waters on defense for the first time in a decade.