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.


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.


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:

  • Supernova

    What wonderful thoughts when you think of what the Oilers top 4 could look like in a few seasons.

    Nurse and Schultz
    Klefbom and Petry

    Add in Simpson, Gernat, Marincin, Musil.

    We could have trading power with this kind of depth, think of what the Kings had a few years back.

    Giddy, just giddy thinking about it.

  • Supernova

    Derek Zona regarding Darnell Nurse

    We’ve quoted various scouting services here since the draft, but I had a chance to talk to three scouts about Nurse and where he fits in comparison to the defensemen selected in the top 10 since 2010. The answers were surprising:

    Scout #1, an NHL amateur scout: “I’d rate him just behind Murray, but ahead of Larsson and Gudbranson.”

    Scout #2, an OHL scout: “He’s a top 5 pick in 2010, and the second defenseman taken in 2011 and 2012.”

    Scout #3, an NHL amateur scout: “He’s the best defenseman in the draft in 2010, equal to Larsson and very close to Murray, though not nearly as polished in his own end as Murray.”

    • 24% body fat

      I saw this too. Can we come to the conclusion on this rating than as prospects (not finished products)based on those scouts


      Nurse (one vote larsson, one vote nurse, one tie)




      also can be concluded

      nurse > fowler, gromley, mciilrath, murphy, oleksiak, klefbom, beaulieu, reinhart, reily, lindholm, dumba, pouliot, touba, koekkoek

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

    I’ve wondered where the Oilers ranked the players after the first 4 picks in the draft.

    Stu did say it really comes down to 2 players if someone falls out of the top 6.

    Where was Nurse ranked by the Oilers 5, 6 , 7 or 8th

  • oliveoilers

    OK, well we seem to be off to a good start today. Just waiting for the first ‘WTF, we need a #2 C, trade Gagner, trade AHL players for Weber, Penner is Jesus in hockey pads, there’s a management conspiracy, fire MacT before his first game, offer sheet player X then see if that team will trade with us’. Did I get ’em all?

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

    I thought there was some negative press about Nurse NOT having a strong shot…..Brock Otten says he has a cannon of a shot……I wonder which account is true?

  • Paq Twinn

    Good read. Like what I’m hearing. Guessing he’ll end up back in OHL next year, but based on high dman picked in recent drafts, it won’t take long for his NHL debut. Pietrangelo, Myers, Karlsson, Doughty all made impacts within two years of their draft year in 2008. Here is hoping 2014-2015 Nurse earns himself the Calder. Great Pick.

  • Lowetide

    Old Retired Guy: one of my current pet peeves. Many Oiler fans seem to believe picking the right guy–even at #1–is a no brainer. Oilers have drafted extremely well in the first round since 2008 imo.

  • Paq Twinn

    I have high hopes for Mr.Nurse. I can see him being A LOT like that “human rake” that once dominated games from the backend in ’06. All he needs is time and proper guidance. Looking forward to tracking his progress this season.

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

    Putting injuries aside……which pair would you rather have…..

    Yakupov and Nurse……or

    Ryan Murray and Nickushkin???

    I think we did ok!

    • oliveoilers

      I’m with you. The other two may turn out to be superstars, but our boys will be no slouches either! Safe pick with Nurse, who I think at WORST will be a #4-5 D-man, and a nasty mean one at that. Not to be sniffed at. And Yak? Well, ’nuff said really.