The Edmonton Oilers selected Darnell Nurse this summer in the entry draft, and then sent him out to junior after a strong showing in training camp. Nurse looks like the real deal—defense first, rugged player, a mean streak and he can move the puck—but it’s going to take some time before he gets to the NHL and then even longer to be helping the team win games. With the Taylor Hall/Jordan Eberle payday contracts kicking in this season, what is the window for this group? How long do they have to wait for that complete defenseman? Is it worth waiting?


I’ve chosen two defensemen we can compare in terms of outer marker, they aren’t perfect but give us an idea about how this might go with Nurse in the next few seasons.

  • Duncan Keith: Drafted 2002, he turned pro in 2004 and played two full seasons in the minor leagues. Chicago brought him to the NHL in 2005-06 and he played big minutes immediately (led the Hawks in TOI as a rookie). At that time, the Blackhawks had a group of veterans (Spacek, Aucoin) to mentor the kids (Keith, Seabrook, Byfgluien) and Keith was thrown into the deep end at 22-years old. Based on the numbers available, it looks like he struggled in year one, improved smartly year two and then at 24 became Duncan Keith.
  • Alex Pietrangelo: Drafted 2008, he got two looks at 18 and 19 (remember Nurse almost got a look this past season, and may get some games next fall) before finally making the NHL at age 20. Again, Pietrangelo was close to leading the club in TOI and as with Duncan Keith Pietrangelo was surrounded by veterans (St. Louis stapled the rookie to veteran Barret Jackman). He was an outstanding rookie and has been a quality player for the Blues early in his career.

Representing the idea of bringing Nurse to the NHL next fall, we have Exhibit "B" below. Since 2006-07, there have been 12 teenagers who have played 50 or more games in the NHL during their rookie year:

From these dozen players who were good enough to land an NHL job, I’d say at least six of them can reasonably be described as having struggled in the following seasons (Myers, Del Zotto, Fowler, Schenn, Johnson, Larsson). Now, your mileage may vary, you might include more or less or exclude some I’ve mentioned, but it does appear there’s a 50% (or more) chance an NHL team is welcoming growing pains (and retarded development) by going this route.



Which brings us back to trading for a defenseman. If the Oilers wait for Nurse, and do it the right way, they could be looking (using the Keith example) at 2017-18 for a strong NHL defenseman wearing Nurse’s number. That’ll coincide with the final three seasons of the current Taylor Hall deal.


The Oilers don’t have a better prospect than Nurse in their system and they don’t have anyone with a complete skill set on the NHL roster. They’re going to have to procure this talent via free agency or trade.

Coming in December: the candidates.

  • Greenlingj

    What about players like:

    Marco Roy

    The fact is all 6 of these guys are really starting to become top NHL prospects in our system Chase has surprised me and Moroz and Khaira look like gold (Moroz has 17 goals with Oil Kings)

    The depth is coming guys, who would have thought Arcobello would be this good as a rookie sure he is 25 and undersized but so was Datsuyk ( not saying he is Datsyuk but sometimes these things work out )

  • S cottV

    To clarify I didn’t mean trade our 1st and Ebs, Klefbom and Yak. I meant those are the pieces (likely just 1) I’d use as bait, probably in that order – ie Yak is my last choice to trade.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    I laugh how everyone says we should trade Hemsky and Gagner to fix all the problems… sigh…. Maybe we can throw in Omark to sweaten the pot?

    While I have nothing but contempt for Tambo, I can’t really blame him for the timing problem. The fact is, its mainly out of control. Chicago got lucky with their dmen coming 5 years before winning the draft lottery from 26th place to get Kane. You can’t plan that. The same people crying about how we drafted players in the wrong order are the ones who would be crying X 100 if we hadn’t drafted BPA. Unfortunately its how the chips fell the years we had #1 overall.

    I don’t understand fans innate need to blame someone. Its like it makes everyone feel better to lay blame somewhere and then cry about it.

    Anyways, I think the point Lowetide was trying to make, and one I agree with is that moving forward this team is going to need to trade/acquire in order to address the D need. We can’t wait for Klefbom/Nurse, and they aren’t 100% for sure anyway.

    Personally I’d look at trading our 1st rounder (this year & next year), Eberle and Klefbom and possibly Yak. I don’t WANT to trade any of those. But please, for the love… don’t start saying we should trade Omark, Gagner or Hemsky for Weber. If we get a stud, its going to cost a studly price (unless somehow MacT can pull a Lowe and trade Eric Brewer for Pronger part II)

    Its going to be painful getting the help we need at the right timing…. Eventually something big is going to have to leave. I hope dangling our future draft picks is enough to get it done, because personally I don’t want trade any of the current youth core. But if the option is doing nothing and waiting for 5 years for Nurse to develop I’d rather MacT does something, even though I know it’ll hurt.

    • camdog

      I can’t fault Tambelini for the drafting, he didn’t hire the chief scouts, they were all Lowe hires. As well it’s Lowe’s draft years that are still crippling the organisation. Often rather than good picks the Oilers would go off the board, gambling on offensive players like Shremp. In Lowe and even Sather’s pursuit of River Boat hockey, they did it through the draft and River boat drafting. They were more or less playing poker at the draft.

      • Just a Fan

        So you don’t blame Tambelini for the draft when he was GM but you do blame Lowe when he was GM?

        Sounds like a double standard.

        Rob Shrimp was ranked 10th by central scouting when the Oilers took him at 25. That is not exactly off the board.

        It is OK to be upset by the Oilers’ draft history. It has been bad, real bad. It is OK to be upset by the Oilers’ on ice performance. It has been awful.

        A lot of the Oilers’ “suckage” has happened on Lowe’s watch and he should be held accountable but he is not the devil. Laying all the blame at his feet is not fair.

        • camdog

          Kevin Lowe hired our scouting staff. He also hired Mact As Presidential advisor and Scott Howson as VP of Hockey Operations. These were Kevin Lowe hires, all made during Tambelini’s tenure, these were not Tambelini moves. From what I hear Tamblini and the scouts did not want to pick Yakopov, this came from Katz

          Tamblini seriously muffed up other issues of the team such as signing Khabibullin and not getting value for Hemsky and on and on. Maybe it’s a double standard, but I really think a lot of our drafting comes back to decisions by Lowe and his people.

          • Spydyr

            Bahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa… Katz’ kid overruled the GM, coaches and all the scouts and picked Yakupov. That’s good stuff.

            Letting your kid make one of the 5 most important decisions in you company seems like how you become a Billionaire.

            You are starting to make HockeyBuzz sound legit.

          • 2004Z06

            He said “Katz kid wanted Yakupov”

            I don’t doubt Katz influenced it because he thought Yakupov was a money maker. No mater what you think of Katz, a dumb guy he is not.

            Saying Katz’ kid single handedly vetoed the GM, coaches and scouts is beyond ridiculous.

  • Word to the Bird

    I wouldn’t trade Schultz. He still hasn’t played 82 games yet, plus he has star potential. Seems silly to be trading up and coming defensemen considering how that’s what we’re looking for.

    Trade for a top 2 defenseman? What team with a stud defenseman is looking to trade one? Besides, it would probably cost too much.

    I believe that we should just get solid defensive help such as a top 4 stay at home defenseman and wait for Nurse/Schultz/Klefbom to develop into that stud

  • Fatbob24

    Get over it folks no one is going to trade us a Doughty type.

    The number one pick might get us a Ehrhoff or Coburn who you could pair with the underrated Petry for a good first pair.

    If you watched Johanson score after waltzing out of corner from Schultz the elder you can realize that even the type of player available to us will make the team a whole lot better.

    Dare I say playoff better.

  • Dan 1919

    Lt, I just read an article over at Canucks Army where they are predicting which of their prospect will make the world juniors. I’m just wondering what your take is on the oilers kids and which of them might have a shot at the world juniors?

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    I hope they give nurse a year in the ahl first. and there. A full year. maybe with a call up here and there. but id rather him playing big minutes and against ok competition for a year then to play 5-6 pairing minutes and not be building his physicality and really dominate. I wish we would have done this with all of our players since 07

  • BC BOY

    Oil made a major mistake by drafting impact forwards before having impact defence.. Now they’ll have to do the opposite way Chicago did it.

    Nurse/Ekblad will be a mighty fine pair in the coming years.. By the time of the draft, all we can hope for is that Gagner is shipped off to Russia and tell him not to come back.

  • BC BOY

    What is the of the potential upside of players like Belov, J Schultz & Klefbom?

    Does Belov have the potential to be a legitimate first pairing defenseman once he gets fully comfortable with playing in the league? I like his calmness, his open ice hits, his outlet passes and his shot, although he continues to make too many gaffs.

    With the right defense partner, perhaps Shultz also fits on a top pair. Is there legitimate potential of Belov and J Schultz?

  • BC BOY

    if only klefbom and nurse were drafted 3-4 years earlier. Gotta think Chicago lucked out by having seabrook and keith already developed by the time kane and toews got drafted

  • Trade him or Klefbom……Not because I don’t think they will pan out, but because the Oilers have to many holes.

    We have to lose some players, skilled forwards or potential defensemen, it’s a real pickle to be sure.

    Our veterans have no value so this is really the only choice, the Oilers can’t expect to wait for this kid to progress into a full time NHLer, not unless they want an infinity build.

    • I Remember the Orange Jerseys

      Seems like I’ve read here a hundred times, the most likely path to a stud D-man for the Oilers is though the draft. Given that these two have the greatest potential to be that stud, albeit a few years off, wouldn’t it make more sense to trade what we already have too much of (small, skilled forwards) for a 2-4 D-man &/or an upgrade at center? I honestly believe that if we were to trade Nurse (in particular) now, that decision would haunt us from 2015 right on through to 2025.

      Like it or not, the only players that have enough trade value to get the Oilers what they currently need, are Eberle, Hall, and RNH. For this team to improve significantly through trade, one of these three would have to go the other way. As RNH is the only center amongst the three, I’d be inclined to take him off that list of available assets. For the right deal, I’d also be willing to let Yak go, but I don’t see him having any significant value (yet).

      If he could bring back a reasonable return at center, I’d also be willing to move J. Schultz. I really don’t think he has that much upside. Ten years from now, he’s going to be a guy that’s been a 4-6 D-man on half a dozen different teams that have all given up on him. If Schultz, or Schultz + could get us a 2C, how much would the team really miss his offense? They certainly wouldn’t miss his “defense”.

      • Dan 1919

        I agree we shouldn’t trade Nurse, he could be what actually makes this team competitive for 20years (like we always hear Management allude to).

        I think J.Shutlz will be better than what you suggest though, and I think he has trade value.

        To me if they have to move J.Shultz, Klefbom, and this year’s first round pick in any combination, or even all three for a stud D man, it’s worth it. Plus as Oiler fans we always seem to WAY overrate our prospects (see Lander and Magnes Pajarvvi).

        Any of those three above are long term projects, and I believe we are at the 14th year of the rebuild and it’s time to win now. I think that would be a step in the right direction without being too reckless about the future.

  • Word to the Bird

    If you look at all of those examples listed, one thing stands out, all of those rookie Dmen were stapled to a reliable vet. Who will that vet be for us? Ference? Petry?

    Our long term D looks like it’ll include:

    J Shultz, Nurse, Klefbom, Petry, Ference, Belov (hopefully). Marincine?

    I like the look of this, however the timing is wrong, and all of our top dogs will be relatively young when we should be hitting our prime. As well, 6,7 D men aren’t that tough to come by anyways.

    Why not consider taking some of, or all of, depending on the return: Klefbom + Marincine + 1st Rounder 2014 (Top 10, but not if its an Ekblad type of top 2 pick) + 2nd Round 2014 type thing and hitting a home run D deal.

    Would bviously prefer instead to run:

    Homerun D, Nurse, Petry, J Shultz, Ference, Belov, Filler

    Who can we pull in to that top position? Seabrook? Hedman? OEL? John Carlson? Jack Johnson? Who can run Weber to our Jones/Brodin?

  • Lowetide

    Usually a proper rebuild goes something like: defense-goaltending depth-centers-wings-good coach with experience.

    The Oilers rebuild went: wing-center-wing-defense-rookie coach-DOH!!!.

  • S cottV

    Yes – cant wait too long with time ticking on the the Eberle, Hall and RNH contracts. Although RNH in training as a 1C and wont be ready to be serious in that role until the 15/16 season – so – some time to acquire a 2C,
    1 and 2D in the meantime. Sooner the better but those kind of guys are hard to come by. If the 1D could be Pronger-like in stature maybe Nurse fills in as a quick study in 2D – by 15/16, but best to bring him along slower. MacT needs to make good on his lack of patience and get the team stronger up the middle and in the back end. We dont dominate in the middle on the first two lines and we have no push up and out from legit 1 and 2 d men. So – we play on the wrong side of the red line way too much, in the first two rotations and its pretty hard for high end wingers to finish from there. So – trade some of these wingers, Gagner and some of our depth youth, to fill the 2C, 1D and 2D holes – so – we can get in the game.

  • Lofty

    Tambelini screwed up the rebuild by drafting forwards first. KLowe hired him and let it happen. Katz needs to recognize how terrible this organization is doing and act accordingly.

    I honestly think that the teams best option now is to trade Eberle, Yakupov, Hemsky and J Schultz for a top pair D men and another high end D prospect. If you can get rid of Gagner do it. Keep the 2014 draft pick and take a forward. Next season would still be crap but 2015/2016 should be the beginning of success.

    When the rebuild began in 2009 the Oilers had very few assets to leverage for improvement. Now they have assets but the team dynamic is awful. I would bite the bullet make moves to bolster the D and try to time slow D development with faster forward maturation and aim for 2015/2016 as the time to move into a playoff team. Trade the 2016 1st rounder in 2015 to bring in another quality player which will tell the fans this is the end. It would end up being 2 more painful seasons but its better than continuing with this group of floaters.

    I also think young players need an emotional coach that gets mad and has an attitude. Eakins emotion reminds me of melba toast. No wonder the boys come out flat 70% of the time.

    • Craig1981

      “screwed up the rebuild by drafting forwards first”??!!?? So you think we should of passed on our forwards Perron (MPS trade), Hall, and RNH and taken Ellis, Gudbranson, and Larsson?? You really think that we would be in a better spot?

      Who from the 2009 roster would you of traded for any quality dmen??? Pisani, Nilsson, Moreau?? I don’t think so. HOW ABOUT Penner and Visnosky!!! but you forget they did. They got THREE d-men Kelfbom, Whitney, and Teubert!!!

      I think the compete level has been there with this team more then ever with Eakins.

  • 24% body fat

    Tank this season, grab ekblad, let klefbom and nurse develop for a couple years.Dump hemsky for a second and trade Samwise and a pick for a veteran top damn…… Oh yeah and sign Belov asap.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      We can expect another 2 years of hype is my prediction. Havent seen anything special out of him yet. Not saying hes a bad player, i can see him a solid 4-5 d with a decent career. Expect him to be more and i think you’ll be dissapointed.He can make a decent first pass, whichis important, not much more offense to speak of so far. Still a few defencive lapses, but hes a young player in his first year in north america.

    • Lowetide

      I think he’ll be a player, but his situation this year really points out a major problem with players. Until they turn pro and arrive in the system, you really don’t know where they are as players.

      Klefbom needs this season in OKC, based on what Jon has been telling us. Maybe more.

      • Lowetide

        I don’t think there’s much difference between the development timelines of any of these guys. We’ll see about Seth Jones, but safety first with blueliners.

  • I Remember the Orange Jerseys

    Dmen take a long time so we should be patient with Nurse. It’s hard not to get excited about him long-term, he looks the part of exactly what we need. We did the right thing sending him back to junior and my guess is that he will get some NHL games next fall. We need to stack the deck against him making it next year and if he does crack it, he should be on the third pairing with a reliable veteran. If you factor in Klefbom pushing for a spot next season, I’m not sure you can break both of them in at the same time. Then you add in a guy like Fedun who is close to deserving a regular shot right now and we are awfully green on the back end.

    Real NHL dmen please. Preferably two-way types with some edge. It’s easier said than done to acquire these pieces but we have plenty of similar forwards and a few D prospects with upside who have some other players to climb over (Marincin). Draft picks should be in play at this point as well.

  • 24% body fat

    Its your turn, if you wanna fist hit the props, if you hate the fist trash it.

    Props for Fist

    Trash for no fist

    I am trashing it myself even though I actually played along with the game.