Darnell Nurse brings a unique skill set to every game he plays. A throwback defender who adjusts well to the modern game because of excellent speed and mobility, his size and rugged style are destined to make him a favorite in Edmonton for years.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 3 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2005: G Devan Dubnyk
- December 2006: C Marc-Antoine Pouliot
- December 2007: D Tom Gilbert
- December 2008: D Theo Peckham
- December 2009: C Riley Nash
- December 2010: L Magnus Paajarvi
- December 2011: D Oscar Klefbom
- December 2012: D Oscar Klefbom
- December 2013: C Marco Roy
- December 2014: D Oscar Klefbom
Some very nice NHL players over the last decade have been ranked in this range. Devan Dubnyk and Tom Gilbert have enjoyed careers of significant length with trunks of memories still to come. I’m tempted to say Klefbom (or Nurse) will be the best of this group but all kinds of things can impact the future. Lots of heartbreak here—Pouliot, Peckham, Paajarvi—but some effective players too.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Kyle Woodlief — USA Today: 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.
- Corey Pronman — Hockey Prospectus: Nurse had a considerable amount of hype at the beginning of the season, and he has exceeded all expectations. He is a gifted physical player who has all the natural tools a scout could want from a defenseman. He has slowly begun to emerge as a two-way player, but his value comes from his high-end work in his own end. Nurse is a tall defender with an aggressive edge and the strength to consistently push his checks off pucks. He has above-average mobility, especially considering his larger size.
- OHL PROSPECTS: Nurse is definitely my top prospect available from the OHL. 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.
- 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.”
- BOB MCKENZIE, TSN: NO. 9
- RED LINE REPORT: NO. 8
- CRAIG BUTTON: NO. 8
- ISS: NO. 6
DARNELL NURSE TOP 20 RANKINGS
- Summer 2013: No. 1
- Winter 2013: No. 1
- Summer 2014: No. 2
- Winter 2014: No. 2
- Summer 2015: No. 3
- Winter 2015: No. 3
- SSM GM Kyle Dubas, about 2013-14: “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.” Source
- Gerry Fleming: “If I was recommending a guy (for recall), I’d have said Darnell. He has been our most complete player. He’s moving the puck more quickly (and making fewer long rushes with it). He’s making good reads.” Source
- Brad MacPherson: The former CHL players that are the best statistical comparables for Nurse are Pietrangelo, Phaneuf, Barker, Staal and Seabrook. Source
- Corey Pronman on Nurse and Reinhart: “There’s a small gap (between the two) I like Nurse a lot, he edges Reinhart in my opinion. There’s also an age difference between the two—Reinhart has already played one year of pro—I think they’re similar in terms of proximity to the NHL, they’re both on the bubble. I think Nurse has a little more of a dynamic element to his game. Nurse’s skating is a little bit better and they both project as good defensive players, I think Nurse can bring a little more offense to the NHL.”
Nice backchecking by Darnell Nurse to thwart a Jonathan Toews-led rush. #Blackhawks
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) November 9, 2015
- Lowetide: I know you’re sick of this (your DMs and emails tell me so) but for me there’s no reason for the Oilers to delay the recall of Darnell Nurse. He was quality in the spring during the AHL playoffs and he’s quality now. Call him up, insert him in the lineup. If he’s poor, the Oilers can send him down after a few games. I’ve maintained all along that he is one of the six best defensive options and he should be here now. After watching last night’s game, I can’t imagine anyone disagrees. At the very least they can start getting him that NHL experience he’s going to need in order to start pushing the river at the highest level. The excuse of Griffin Reinhart also needing those initial NHL minutes to have the game slow down for him don’t apply—Reinhart is injured. Call up Darnell Nurse. It’s the right thing to do. Source
- Hidden Darts: Anyway, Nurse is a man amongst boys. Wow. Great wheels. Real calm. Source
- David Staples, Cult of Hockey: While the rest of the Bakersfield d-men, save for big, steady David Musil, got eaten alive this game, Nurse did not. Another strong game where he used his size and speed to good advantage. Source
- Bruce McCurdy, Cult of Hockey: Then there’s the ridiculous athletic prowess that manifested itself in at least two dazzling spinaramas, one a somewhat dangerous but perfectly-executed 360 coming out of his own end, the other a thrust into the low shot after a fine Draisaitl feed that ended with a spinning backhand that seriously tested McCollum. He didn’t look like a man who intends to stay in the AHL for long, even as games like tonight’s will do him a world of good. Source
— Mark I Williams M.D. (@CameraGuyBakoCA) October 16, 2015
5×5 points per 60: 1.15—No. 2 among defensemen
5×4 points per 60: 39.13—No. 1 among defensemen (MAY not stay that high)
Qual Comp: No. 9 among D
Qual Team: No. 1 among D
Corsi Rel: -8.1 (No. 7 among D)
Corsi for % 5×5: 48.5 (No. 4 among D)
Zone Start: 46.2
Shots on goal/percentage: 12/8.3
Boxcars: 9GP, 1-3-4 (on pace for 73GP, 8-24-32)
This is a nice player card, Darnell Nurse should have a fine rookie year. I really like his game and he appears to be refining things to reduce the chaos—suggesting he’s highly coachable. Let’s not go crazy, but this is a substantial prospect. His CorsiRel has taken a dip in recent days, as more time (and more defensive zone starts) have him playing tougher minutes. It’s beyond what we should consider ideal, but the Oilers don’t have a better option.
Dangerous Fenwick Against/60 tonight via @OilersNerdAlert Nurse 18 Klef 20.6 Sekera 22.5 Davidson 22.7 Fayne 27.2 Gryba 41.2 Ference 43.8
— Woodguy (@Woodguy55) October 30, 2015
Nurse is more effective away from Sekera (49.3 versus 48.2) but that’s as discussed—a move up the depth chart. We should assume the possession numbers will be less attractive if Nurse stays in his current role (over 20 minutes in three of his last five games). I’m a big fan of Nurse and his future, but that might be a little too much to expect for his rookie season in pro hockey.
Darnell Nurse is a perfect fit for what Edmonton needs. The Blue Bullet link above rings true, albeit we can’t be sure which comp is the best fit. An outstanding draft pick, finished off a significant junior career in a fashion somewhat similar to Jordan Eberle, and now begins his pro career by walking the streets of Bakersfield for about five minutes, before leaving on a jet plane. Fabulous future. Do NOT be disappointed if he spends more time in the AHL this season. Edmonton has real issues at the position and they need to make sure there’s a reasonable transition from junior to the NHL.
THE 2013 DRAFT
- Darnell Nurse, No. 7 overall. A quality prospect who has delivered in the early days of his pro career. Has a range of skills and has had good-to-great games already the NHL season. No. 3 prospect, Winter 2015.
- Marco Roy, No. 59 overall. Didn’t earn an NHL deal, signed to a minor league contract and played early days in the ECHL. Recalled to the AHL, we’ll see how things go.
- Bogdan Yakimov, No. 83 overall. Mammoth Russian progressing, although he’s a little shy offensively this season in the AHL so far. A candidate for the Winter top 20.
- Anton Slepyshev, No. 88 overall. Slick Russian winger impressed in camp and won an NHL job. Currently in the minors, but he’s bona fine. Inside the Winter top 20.
- Jackson Houck, No. 94 overall. Unsigned, playing in junior. No longer in the organization.
- Kyle Platzer, No. 96 overall. New pro playing well in Bakersfield, good results. A candidate for the Winter top 20.
- Aidan Muir, No. 113 overall. College winger, not scoring. A candidate for the Winter top 20.
- Evan Campbell, No. 128 overall. College winger with decent results so far this year. A candidate for the Winter top 20.
- Ben Betker, No. 158 overall. First year pro in the ECHL currently. Big, strong and good speed. A project. A candidate for the Winter top 20.
- Greg Chase, No. 188 overall. Turned pro but was sent to the ECHL. Performed well there and was recently called to the AHL. Talented player, but no draft pedigree. A candidate for the Winter top 20.