Based on the verbal we’ve heard from Craig MacTavish in the last 16 months, the Edmonton Oilers defense is going to be big, mobile, physical, able to make quick decisions and pass the puck expertly. They won’t necessarily be offensive players—Justin Schultz aside—but will have a wide range of skills. Among current prospects and roster players, it seems to me the description by MacTavish most closely resembles Darnell Nurse. Get ready for meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.
- “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.”
TULSKY’S GOLD FROM 2012-13
Eric Tulsky was doing insane work at various spots on the internet one summer ago and he came up with a way to estimate ‘qual comp’ for defensemen in the CHL. The graph above estimates Darnell Nurse’s situational stats: his ice-time is heavy and 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.
RECENT QUOTES ON NURSE
- Michael Parkatti on the Lowdown: “All you can really ask of your prospects is that they progress. I think it’s pretty obvious he progressed year over year. It’s probably a function of the opportunity he was given, he was playing behind some older players during his draft season. It’s good to see that he performed pretty well when given the chance. In terms of his chances, you have to look at the depth chart and think he has a shot here.”
- SSM GM Kyle Dubas: “People get obsessed with Darnell’s plus/minus (plus-1, down from plus-15 the year prior), but his underlying numbers are excellent. Relative to the competition he plays [against], he does extremely well. Far greater than 50 percent of the time, the puck is not in our end. To me, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. If we’re taking the other team’s best players and forcing them to play in their end and away from the puck, that’s a successful day. The quality of competition he’s faced is higher than anyone else in our league, especially among defencemen.
- Ryan Dittrick: Averaging more than 27 minutes per game against the opposition’s best players, “with no exceptions,” night after night in all situations? “That’s Darnell,” Dubas says. “There are no shifts off.” He’s been a force, an absolute brute on the Soo blueline.
OILERS CURRENT DEPTH CHART
- Mark Fayne
- Jeff Petry
- Martin Marincin
- Justin Schultz
- Nikita Nikitin
- Andrew Ference
- Oscar Klefbom
- Keith Aulie
- Darnell Nurse
If Darnell Nurse comes to camp, stands and delivers, who do you send down? Who do you risk waivers on? And, this question came from speeds, at what point do you begin contemplating Andrew Ference in the press box? Things could happen quickly here, maybe this fall. And if Nurse pushes, does that give Edmonton enough ammo to pursue an addition at center?
Nurse photo by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved.