Tonight I’ll watch Darnell Nurse try to shut down the best junior forward on the planet, and as I do this question will once again need an answer: WHY does Darnell Nurse need to spend some or all of next season in the AHL next season?
About a month ago I wrote about ‘ETA’s’ for young Oilers and suggested this in regard to Nurse:
- D Darnell Nurse. I think it makes worlds of sense to place him in Bakersfield, but if Nurse arrives in training camp and is clearly among the six best defensemen? Keep him, even if it means placing a veteran on waivers—up to and including Niki Nikitin and Andrew Ference. Source
That’s still how I feel, but in these viewings (saw him good!) cannot help but think that he’s pushed beyond that imaginary line in the sand we create to divide the majors from the minors. Are we SURE Nurse can’t make the jump? Are we absolutely certain he’s the seventh best option? Are we convinced Darnell Nurse as an Oiler will cost more games than, say, Niki Nikitin as an Oiler?
- Michael Parkatti, summer 2014: “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.” (Lowdown show)
Michael’s words rang true before the 2014-15 season and they have even more iron in them now. I think we should at least discuss the idea that Darnell Nurse may be NHL ready.
I am told that Darnell Nurse played 35:53 in Game 5 and 31:44 in Game 4 vs Erie
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) May 2, 2015
We agree (I hope we do) that it’s important to be patient with prospects and if Nurse comes to training camp and needs more time this fall, then Bakersfield awaits him. I don’t see it as likely. Let’s look at the current Oilers (pro) depth chart:
- D Oscar Klefbom
- D Justin Schultz (RFA)
- D Nikita Nikitin
- D Mark Fayne
- D Andrew Ference
- D Martin Marincin (RFA)
- D Darnell Nurse (new pro)
- D Keith Aulie (RFA)
- D Brad Hunt (RFA)
- D Brandon Davidson (RFA)
- D Jordan Oesterle
- D Martin Gernat
- D David Musil
- D Dillon Simpson
- D Joey Laleggia (new pro)
- D Ben Betker (new pro)
First, let’s look below Nurse (No. 8-16) and see if there’s anyone who is a lock to beat him out in camp. You could argue that Davidson, Oesterle and Musil could impress during camp, and Laleggia is a unique player who could surprise. I don’t see anyone with his game, honestly.
Now, among the players above him, who could he beat out for a job? Peter Chiarelli could lay waste to this depth chart but the one thing we’ve learned over past summers is getting rid of contracts can be difficult. I think it’s reasonable to suggest Darnell Nurse has a real chance to win a starting job opening night.
One more thing: I don’t think it would be an upset if it happens. He’s a tremendous young player.