For the first time in several years, the Edmonton Oilers first round selection does not boast breathtaking boxcar numbers. Darnell Nurse is a defenseman with a wide range of skills, a ‘two-way’ type, a ‘complete player’ in scouting terms. He projects as a fearsome defender who can intimidate and run over the opposition–Oiler fans recognize that kind of talent–they’ve seen it for years from the opposition. Nurse also offers an underrated offensive side. In this area, he is an emerging talent.
Nurse–uniquely among the top 3 CHL defenders chosen this season–played a lesser offensive role in his draft year. That may have impacted the perception of value although it didn’t hurt his draft number. Nurse plays for a very good Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound team, with two defensemen ahead of him in the PP pecking order. Both Ryan Sproul (20-46-66 including 11 powerplay markers) and Colin Miller (20-35-55, 8 man advantage goals) played ahead of Nurse. Both are 20 now, so Nurse should slide into the #1 PP slot this coming season.
What kind of impact did playing on the second powerplay have on Nurse and his numbers? Here’s the top 3 CHL defenders chosen in this year’s draft and their numbers broken down by discipline.
EV/PP/PK NUMBERS FOR ELITE CHL DEFENDERS 12-13
All three of these defenders are quality puck moving options and Jones is well clear of the group. However, the Oilers have an underrated offensive option based on the boxcars because he’s missing about a dozen points (or thereabouts) due only to his spot on the depth chart. At even strength, he is certainly capable and his 2 PK assists suggest that he does indeed play in all three disciplines.
Nurse’s defensive reputation is strong, very strong. The Oilers are getting a rock solid blueliner, a heavy hitter and a guy with a world class mean streak. Oiler fans are going to love him.
- 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.
Also, the brilliant Eric T. posted an article that has Nurse facing the second toughest competition available in his 17-year old OHL season (it is here). Mad, mad arrows in his favor.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Darnell Nurse has the potential to be a complete defenseman, a 25 minute a night blue who can impact the game in all three zones and all three disciplines. Even if he doesn’t become a powerplay dynamo, there’s so much defensive potential here it’s likely he plays in the NHL well up the depth chart due to his defensive and puck moving skills. His passing is strong, his shot is a cannon, he’s mobile, strong, tall and lean.
Darnell Nurse is a smart young man and the best defensive prospect drafted by the Oilers since Paul Coffey. No pressure, Darnell.
Also in the series: