Darnell Nurse has the power, the speed and the potential to be a quality NHL defenseman. Standing 6.04 and weighing 213, the young man is not yet the sum of his parts, and the next steps are not promised—but vital to a successful future for the Oilers. Can Darnell Nurse harness his substantial talents and become a complete defenseman? (Sun In An Empty Room)
DARNELL NURSE 2015-16
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.31 (No. 6 among regular defensemen)
- 5×4 points per 60: 4.29 (one point in 14 minutes)
- Corsi for 5×5 %: 45.5
- Qual Comp: No. 5 among regular defensemen (third pairing)
- Qual Team: No. 3 among regular defensemen (second pairing)
- Corsi for 5×5 % REL: -11.7
- Shots on goal/percentage: 120/2.5
- Boxcars: 69GP, 3-7-10 .145
- Information via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, behindthenet.ca and hockey-reference.
RE 16-17: 66GP, 3-11-14 .212
- That was a rough year. Yes. Nurse played a lot (No. 2 among NHL rookie D regulars) and it was fairly obvious (I split out out in first 11 games/the rest) he was playing too high on the depth chart.
- Who did he play with? Nurse struggled with Andrej Sekera (44.1) in 393 minutes; the Oilers should have moved the rookie away from Sekera in my opinion.
- Anyone else? He was 47.2 in 245 minutes with Justin Schultz, 48.5 with Eric Gryba, that was in 95 minutes. Brandon Davidson? 50 percent in 45 minutes, he played well with Pardy too.
- What does it all mean? The Oilers did this young man no favors playing him too high on the depth chart. When playing third pairing—with, say Eric Gryba—he posted a 48.5 percent Corsi for at 5×5 in 95 minutes. Not fabulous, but survival by a rookie. The Oilers should have kept him there (or with Brandon Davidson, 50 percent), away from the tough minutes.
- His offense was terrible. Nurse as a rookie was 0.31/60 5×5. Jeff Petry was 0.21/60 5×5 as a rookie in 2010-11. The graph above shows Nurse flourishing early, and then his offense died after those first 11 games. I think it would have been wise to send him back to the AHL after some struggles—instead, Edmonton elevated him to the Sekera pairing and talked about how physical he was in games.
- So, now Nurse is better than Petry? No, but rookie seasons are a snapshot. Nurse’s NHLEs had him around 20 points in junior (final season projected to 82gp, 7-17-24) so 10 points this past season should not represent his outer marker.
- A lot of people are saying Nurse is not going to be a strong top 4D. There are some people I respect a lot who have suggested this to me, but I would like to see him through the first five years of his career.
- Why? Well, players don’t develop in a straight line and one suspects it is even more severe for defenders. Nurse had a tough rookie year, but at least some of that was due to handling by the Oilers. I think the Oilers overestimated his ability to take on more of a load, and were extremely slow to recognize it. Difficult to blame the player in this case.
- His possession number is awful! It happens with kids on bad teams. Ladislav Smid in his early seasons was very poor, Taylor Chorney had a 38.4 Corsi for 5×5 percentage in 2009-10, Justin Schultz 42.7 in 2011-12, most of these struggles come from an organization that was stubborn on the player.
- Will he have a career? Yes. The one down arrow that was obvious from this season? Nurse was unready at 20. Some believe that is enough evidence to damn him forever—I disagree. Very important to give defensemen time to develop, as we saw recently with Brandon Davidson.
- What do you mean? On November 23, Nurse was 12gp, 1-2-3 48.6 Corsi for 5×5/60. If Edmonton had sent him back around that period—or two weeks later—he could have re-set his season. As it was, the team relied on him to play a substantial role and did some curious things with him.
- They kept him. How did it go? Between November 24 and December 31, he was 18gp, 1-0-1 43.1 Corsi for 5×5 percentage. A lot of that time, he was playing with Sekera. On January 21, he was -2 in 22:49 against Dallas. Two nights later? -3 in 21 minutes against Nashville. Curious handling from late November through season’s end.
- Again, why? I honestly think they felt Nurse might be able to handle it. I think the entire Oilers groupthink is on board with Nurse as a feature player, and there is danger here (imo) of asking too much, too soon.
- A lot of evidence that a top 10 pick who can’t play at par as a rookie won’t make it as a quality NHL defender. Did these players get moved to the top pairing after 11 games? And is this a strict rule, as in once the die is cast all bets are off? Because that seems to be a grand case of issue framing from here, although I stand to be corrected.
- What kind of player will he be? Still waiting to find out, I think. He could be a more physical Calvin de Haan, he could be Nick Schultz, he could end up being Eric Brewer. We don’t really know how much offense he will bring.
- What is his outer marker in NHL points in a season? I will say 30, it might be 25. I would be floored if he ever hit 40 points. Nurse has terrific speed and can pass the puck, but (so far) I have not seen a lot of creativity inside the offensive zone. His NHLE of 24 points final season junior seems like a good early career line in the sand.
- He is Ladislav Smid and you know it. Or he is Eric Brewer or maybe better. We don’t know, and honestly I think a lot of the bets being made now have more to do with the Edmonton Oilers than Darnell Nurse.
- What is the best thing about him? Nurse is a fast defenseman who (I believe) who will provide most of his value as a defender. He is a rugged defender, very physical, and is easily quick enough to beat the forward to the back wall for the puck. Once he learns to make smart plays quickly, Nurse will spend far less time chasing the puck in his own end.
- What is the biggest negative? He is young, inexperienced, and he probably lost some valuable development time playing in the deep end as an NHL rookie. It would have been better to play 30+ games in the AHL a year ago, in my opinion.
- Another failed prospect! Reinhart is better! I believe there are Oilers fans who already question Nurse as a potential top 4D over the next decade. I would encourage everyone to give him more time. If the Oilers handle Nurse this coming season the way they used Davidson a year ago (BD took on more of the load as he proved capable), we will probably see a more encouraging season.
- Reinhart is better! Well, I don’t believe Reinhart has the same skill set (Nurse is a fast train, is more naturally aggressive than Reinhart) but there is no real way to answer that statement. We are not far enough into the book to know the outcome. Five years.
- How would you like to see Nurse’s season handled by the Oilers in 2016-17? I would like to see the Oilers slow down the fast track on this player. Time in Bakersfield would do no harm, and for me anything above third pairing this season would be foolish. Find him a third pair partner he can work with and then get on with the business of learning consistency.
- What does he need to learn? Nurse has to learn the calm feet side of the game. He is too aggressive about flying the zone, he is too ready to carry the puck end to end, he doesn’t pass out of the zone effectively and consistently. Those are areas I would like to see improved this coming year.
- Do you still like him as a player? Oh yes, big fan of Nurse. He has tremendous speed, he is physical and he can win battles. If he can improve his decisioning and passing, he will be here for a decade and beyond.
- Why this song? Wonderful song, a bit of a throwback style (just like Nurse) and like the title, this player is not yet complete. Plenty of potential and a helluva riff.