GRIFFIN V. DARNELL: THEY’RE BOTH WINNERS

nurse ferguson

If my math is correct, there’s no way the Oilers will start the season with Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart in the opening night lineup. Ahead of the dynamic duo are veterans (Andrej Sekera, Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin, Andrew Ference, Eric Gryba) and some youth (Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz). In the conversation with them will be Brandon Davidson, but when it comes to the two emerging defensemen it’s only a matter of time. Who gets here first?

If you’re going to find a great spot for Reinhart, it’s probably third pairing beside a veteran partner. My guess is a guy like Mark Fayne (who is probably needed up the depth chart) would be a perfect fit. I think he’s a solid young defenseman with size, foot speed, the ability
to pass and make a pass, protect the puck, win battles and play with an
edge. His calm feet may carry the day for the Oilers in big games, but for now establishing himself at the NHL level seems a big enough chore. I’m not sure Reinhart sees a lot of PP time but he did have that gear in junior and last season in the AHL.

If we’re estimating Reinhart’s role as an NHL player, I think he’ll receive substantial EV and PK minutes, closer to a shut down type than it may have appeared on draft day.

  • Grant McCagg, TSN: Strengths: Very
    few 6-4 blueliners can skate and handle the puck like Reinhart, and
    those attributes alone will intrigue lots of scouts. Has a hard point
    shot that often finds its mark, good passing skills.
    Weaknesses: Does
    not always play with an abundance of passion and drive. Could be more
    assertive physically, and more consistent in his effort.

Since he was drafted, I’d bet the scouting report would talk more about the physical aspect of the game and less about the offense. This shouldn’t surprise, most of the offense collected by defenders comes from power-play minutes. My guess is that we see Reinhart a few times this year and that he’s in the NHL to stay by the deadline or sooner.

One area that may benefit Reinhart: He has one year in the AHL and Nurse turns pro this fall. The natural progression would be for Reinhart to move up first, and if that holds then the onus will be on Nurse at TC.

  • BJ MacDonald, Central Scouting: “He’s got nice,
    soft hands for a big defenseman, can run the power play and has a big
    shot — both the wrist shot and slapper. He moves the puck as well as
    anyone in this year’s draft and I like the way he thinks the game. He’s
    got a nice pro style that will make for an easier transition to the
    (NHL).”

NURSE

This time last year, I asked Michael Parkatti from Boys on the Bus about Nurse and received a surprising (to me) answer:

  • 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)

That’s an interesting take from a guy who traditionally slow plays the prospects (pretty much any advanced math study will show you the plodding development time line for young D). Nurse progressed even more in 2014-15 and is now reportedly at 218 pounds. He’s also extremely mobile, I mean it’s impressive to see how quickly he gets around the ice.

  • Peter Chiarelli talks about Nurse:His game has got a lot more
    structure and he’s really come a long way from what I’ve seen. I really like his compete and we’re
    trying to build from the back end a bit in Edmonton and he’s a good fit
    with us right now.”
    Source

BOTTOM LINE

This time next season I’ll bet we’re talking about both men as NHL blue for the next many years. This fall, the contest for NHL employment between these two young men will be fascinating to watch. The winner? The Edmonton Oilers and their fans.


  • Just a Fan

    Reinhart makes the big club out of training camp. Nikitin is waived but fails to report. The Oilers suspend him and he leaves for the KHL where he plays 3 more years putting up good numbers and making huge $$$$.

  • Just a Fan

    I am hopeful that either can make the progression to the NHL this season, but I guess we’ll wait and see. I do believe that they need sufficient time in the AHL to evaluate NHL-readiness. If I were to give a ballpark figure, I’d say at least 40 games.

    This brings to mind one my analytics-based bugaboos. I find it extremely hard to believe that coaching and management of any NHL team uses training camp as a reliable gauge for assessing NHL-readiness. If they do, they are very poor in understanding a fundamental concept of statistics: sample size. Is 6-8 games sufficient to gauge a player’s true ability?

    Not only that, but the competition in pre-season is softer because other teams are also testing out their prospects.

    Training camp can provide a taste of a player’s readiness, but not enough to fully digest their abilities.

    Now if a prospect dominates at the AHL level for at least 40 games, then you’ve got something to hang your analytics hat on.

    Finally, if I were Oilers’ management, I would want the AHL players tracked in as much detail as possible; at minimum, collecting the same stats that the NHL does. If they are going to make the most use of analytics, then that’s the direction I would hope they’d go.

    Walter
    Analytics Blogger for BeerLeagueHeroes

    • @S_2_H

      If you do not start them until the 40th game , you have accomplished retarding the time line of their and teams assessment period , and half a late season may not necessarily be to them or the teams benefit . Ahl is not always indicative as to how well they will perform at NHL level as we all know from players like Landers as an example . Let us not get into analytics retarding the assessment of these players , in a nutshell . Your analytics will vary widely I suspect from league to league (junior , semi pro and NHL ) more so than from team to team in NHL . It is a small guide (analytics) only , not the end all be all . Yours is a weak argument for delaying them .

      • Just a Fan

        You wrote: “If you do not start them until the 40th game , you have accomplished retarding the time line of their and teams assessment period.”

        What is your evidence that 40 games of AHL “will retard the time of their team’s assessment period”? Please, no anecdotal evidence, but something substantial. You can start with historical evidence from a team like, Detroit, for instance, who has an exceptional record in developing players in the minors.

        You state that AHL is not always indicative of how they will perform in the NHL, which makes no sense to me. I they don’t perform well in the AHL, would what make you think they are NHL-ready? Anton Lander was tearing it up on the Barons. He was called up because he was succeeding there. Why else would he be called up?

        I really don’t understand your point that analytics “vary widely…from league to league.” A shot on goal is a shot on goal, no matter what league. True, you won’t have league-wide measures to compare your players against, but at the very least, you’ll see how players are doing relative to each other.

        For instance, using shot attempts (Corsi) against relative to the team is a far superior measure of defensive ability than plus-minus. I’m also thinking that Ryan Stimson’s Passing Project can be a valuable model to follow in collecting data (i.e., game video review with a template to follow). His measuring protocol is publicly available and would give management detailed information on player’s passing skills. This kind of in-depth information is simply not possible with the “eye-ball test.”

        Also, you don’t seem to understand what analytics entails by stating it is a “small guide.” To me, this suggests you have a bias against it. Analytics isn’t everything (never stated that it was), but it provides a ton of objective information to base your decisions that is simply not humanly possible by simply watching the game.

        • Just a Fan

          Here are a few examples of elite defensemen whose time in the AHL did not “retard the time” for the team to assessment them. Indeed, the AHL ice-time likely helped the players (a) develop with a better chance to succeed and (b) provided management with enough body of work (sample size) to make a decision for their NHL-readiness.

          Jake Muzzin – 146 GP
          Shea Weber – 46 GP (115 GP in WHL)
          Duncan Keith – 155 GP (37 GP in WHL)
          P.K. Subban – 77 GP (164 GP in OHL)
          Ryan Suter – 63 GP

          Should I go on?

  • Just a Fan

    There is something else to consider……..what if Nurse and Reinhart outshine all other at TC?

    Given all the defence man we have do we start the season with Nurse and Reinhart playing big minutes in the AHL, or playing minor roles with the Oilers?

    Nice problem to have after what we have been through………now this is bold!

  • Just a Fan

    Walter : you put to much emphasis on analytics , and appear to have a bias , and have little trust/faith in your eyeball approach by the sounds of it . Stats can wildly fluctuate even from line to line , and team to team , as players develop or wind down in their careers . A coaches eye ball approach is still the most crucial of aids at his disposal. If not , then you would see an analytics computer geek running as the coach behind the benches .

    • The Soup Fascist

      First, human memory is inherently unreliable. There is no possible way to remember all the relevant information from a single hockey game, never mind a season’s worth of games, by simply watching it. Hence, objective measures and statistical analysis of these measures provide this detailed information.

      Second, in how you describe statistics, that they “wildly fluctuate,” suggests that you don’t understand statistics in hockey. There are repeatable measures in hockey that predict future performance, from the player level to the team level (for e.g., Corsi and Weighted Shots). As to player’s changing with age, there are age-based performance curves done by hockey analysts, like Eric Tulsky. In fact, on Twitter yesterday, I tweeted Dany Heatley’s curve showing that his age-related production decline is much steeper than the average forward. You may want to research hockey analytics in more depth. There is a tonne out there. A good place to start is the Twitter account, NHL Explainer.

      Fourth, not sure why you brought up coaches. I said nothing about them. But because you brought up coaches, their memories are as limited and fallible as other humans. Analytics can help coaches fill in their memory blind-spots and inform their decisions with objective data.

      Fifth, analytics geeks are cool. NHL teams are hiring the best of them. No surprise that LA and Chicago are teams that have been on the forefront of hockey analytics.

      Sixth, I haven’t seen you respond to the evidence that I presented (e.g., elite defenders with time in the minors, Detroit’s track record in developing players in minors), and nor have I see you present evidence to support your claim that a player’s time in the AHL is wasted time for assessing NHL-readiness.

      • Just a Fan

        Why would I as a fan want to wrap myself up in analytics to begin with ? I go to games and follow hockey by eyeball . When games get to predictable by analytics then my desire to watch hockey anymore will end . Are you an automaton ? If my eyeball approach is not acceptable then the game of hockey becomes unacceptable , and the game becomes more like a computer game . Try your analytics on horse racing , which is over analized , and you’ll find out how all programs of that nature will make you broke . I’ll use the eyeballand human approach and actually enjoy the thrill of uncertainty , as that is what drives most of us to enjoy the game .

  • Just a Fan

    Going to have to disagree.

    In my opinion, not to jump on the Oilers bandwagon everytime the media does, but Reinhart is not an NHLer. Will get a shot, but too slow, thinks too slow, soft for size. Career AHLer.