Peter Chiarelli lays out the challenge for Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl

Peter Chiarelli3

On Saturday night, TSN’s Bob McKenzie interviewed Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli. We’ve had a number of posts on this site hitting on what was said because the wide-ranging conversation gives us a glimpse into the mind of the man tasked with reviving the Oilers.

Among other points, Chiarelli gave us a glimpse into his philosophy regarding young players, specifically Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl.

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The Quotes

Asked whether Draisaitl and Nurse might start the year in the minors owing to developmental imperatives even if technically NHL-ready, Chiarelli said this:

It’s possible. I think an argument can be made either way, that they can be on the team and develop with the team. For a defenceman there’s more responsibilities so Darnell may have a steeper climb there; then we’re talking about Leon centre/wing it might be easier to make that switch in the minors, so you can make an argument for both cases. It’s easy to get these guys in and let them develop, it’s harder to put them down there and tell them to be patient. There is certainly a strong cast of forwards that would make it easier to send Leon down. At the end of the day, Bob, the play ramps up in every 10-game segment. What you see in training camp, the level of play, the pace, is far different from the first 10 games, it’s far different from the next 10 games. What people will see is both those two competing in the lowest level of competition across the season, so you’ve got to be careful when you make these decisions.

It’s an answer which in many ways mirrors what Chiarelli said during his July 1 press conference, when he was asked a similar question about Nurse and Draisaitl:

You want competition and not hand anything to anybody. We want to progress, we want to be better. If there’s a spot to be won and one of these young players win it, then they’ll win it. But training camp is different from the first 10 games, and the first 10 games is a lot different from the next 10 games. It’s a progression. Just because you can fill in a phantom roster without those [young] players doesn’t mean they won’t be on the team.

The Takeaway

Chiarelli’s answer to McKenzie is agnostic on the idea of uber-patient development in the mode of the Detroit Red Wings. That’s a fair stance; while the strategy has certainly worked well for the Wings we’re not at a point where it’s possible to conclusively show one way or the other that the reason their players have developed so well is that approach (as opposed to something like generally superior coaching, drafting, etc.).

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His answer does suggest two other items, though, one working for and one against the rookies.

First, he isn’t an absolutist about development; he takes into account the needs of his team when making decisions about demotions. That may seem obvious, but it’s certainly possible to concoct a scenario where long term goals would easily trump actual team need (i.e. ‘Anton Lander really should start his North American career in the AHL, but he’s clearly a better fourth-line centre/penalty-killer in the here-and-now than Gilbert Brule). In other words, if Nurse or Draisaitl are deemed to be ready, they can file off the rough edges in the majors.

Second, it’s not as simple as an open contest in which players are on an even footing. This won’t be a shock to anyone, but established NHL’ers aren’t necessarily going to go through a wall to win a preseason game the way they would during the year. Chiarelli’s repeated comments that play ramps up (he made them in a July 7 interview, too) as the season progresses suggest strongly that the rookies don’t just have to make the team out of camp, they have to be head-and-shoulders clear of the cut line. It’s not enough to be better than the established players; the rookie needs to be definitively better.

It seems that Nurse’s challenge is going to be to prove that he’s polished enough defensively to crack the team; his physical skills are clear but defencemen generally take longer than forwards because there’s simply more to learn defensively and mistakes can generally only be covered by the goalie. Draisaitl, in contrast, will have to displace a forward to claim a spot. It’s not a sure thing either makes the team out of camp; if I had to guess I’d say that Draisaitl’s chances of earning a spot on the wing are pretty good and that it’s going to be awfully difficult for Nurse to play well enough to win a spot in the lineup for Game 1.


  • DaveChamp

    If spots on the team are earned based on merit, I shudder to think of Andrew Ference or Nikita Nikitin stepping onto the ice on opening night and not Darnell Nurse.

    If development is the reason to send Nurse down, that’s fine by me. But he is clearly a better player in basically all aspects of the game than the two defensemen I just mentioned.

    • TKB2677

      And this is based on an eye test of nurse against 18 to 20 year olds in a development camp, a rookie camp or the WJC? Lets see him battle Cory Perry in behind the net, or chase Patrick Kane before we say how good he is. The potential is there, but it is not delivered just yet. And the potential for mistakes, mis-reads and over exuberance and drawing penalties is just as much within his potential. Until we are 9 games in we still do not know the calibre of any of these young men.

    • DaveChamp

      Add Schultz’s name to the list that includes Nikitin and Ference as marginal defencemen that wouldn’t make the roster if it was based on merit.

      And for forwards, Purcell.

      • freelancer

        My god man, Purcell is not the problem here. He’s an NHL hockey player, he’s not perfect sure, but the only real problem with him is that he’s overpaid.

        On the list of problems the Oilers have to deal with, salary excluded, Teddy Purcell is far down the list.

        • Dwayne Roloson 35

          Our fan base thinks people who get paid more than they’re worth are worthless.

          “Trade the semi-useful guy making a lot of money = contenders”

          -oilers fans

    • TKB2677

      How can we be certain that Nurse is already better? We have never seen him play against competition other than junior players. I’m not saying he isn’t better, I’m just saying that we really haven’t had the chance to evaluate properly yet.

    • bradleypi

      How do you know he’s better? Just because you like him more? Makes me wonder if anybody actually knows that he’s only 20. He didn’t exactly blow the doors off last year when he had his chance at the start of the year. I’d like to see him in the ahl. It’s not like the oilers are gonna win the cup this year.

    • bradleypi

      So you have seen Nurse play in the NHL? Nurse is an awesome player. I love his style but he has played one game in the NHL. Let’s see what he does first before we shudder.

    • hagar

      That has not been seen yet. Maybe NN would be crushing everyone in junior last year if he some how could have played.

      Nurse is going to be sick, but let’s not go too crazy on current abilities until he gets to camp.

      Sometimes you lose perspective comparing the smartest person in the dumb class against the dumbest person in the smart class.

      We will see!!

  • freelancer

    Judging from interviews from the last couple months, I think it can be inferred that Todd and Pete want Draisaitl on the RW, who is his competition?

    Eberle, Purcell, and Yak. I think we can all agree that even if Draisaitl is better than a Klinkhammer or Hendricks, we don’t want him wasting his time on a fourth line.

    That’s going to be tough for him to surpass any of those guys. Only option I see there is if Draisaitl is able to really shine, Chia would try and move Purcell but more realistically I think Draisaitl will be the first callup after injury.

    • freelancer

      In the last fourteen years there have only been TWO third overall draft picks that have NOT played the full NHL season the second year after they were drafted. Kyle Turris and Cam Barker.

      After watching Leon play this weekend I can confidently say he will make the oilers. There wasn’t one player in that Tourney that was even close to the way he played including the game CMD played.

      • freelancer

        Nifty stat. Don’t get me wrong, I think the world of Draisaitl and this tourney only helped that case. Right now the only way I see him making the season out of camp is on the third line, with either him or a guy like Purcell/Yak playing their off side. Not an impossible situation, but I guess I’m just not as prepared as you are to pencil him in.

      • bradleypi

        So the question is; What do all those teams who picked third overall have in common? They all sucked.

        The oilers suck, but they have depth now. If McDavid didn’t fall into the oilers laps, Leon would have made the team. He is ready. Leon will play in the NHL this season. But he won’t start here. My best guess is he will play 35 games in the NHL this year.

      • freelancer

        Nothing in particular. Just thinking long term. McLellan was talking about how he liked how strong Drai was on his backhand. Right now Hall and Pouliot are your top two LW’s. On the other side I see eventually Draisaitl and one of Eberle/Yak.

    • bradleypi

      The only thing has to surpass is purcls $4 million dollar ck tract. Whether drai is better then Purcell or not we all know money talks in this situation. But in fairness to Purcell, who is better?

      Drai or Purcell?
      Drai or Yak?

  • TKB2677

    The key thing for me is having these guys EARN a spot. If they flat out win a job, then you keep them up. But they have to win the job which is how it should be. For too long, young guys like this were just given the job whether they were ready for it or not. These are the actions of losing teams. The successful teams don’t give rookies jobs so I am hoping that Oilers are getting to that point where guys finally have to earn a spot.

  • Dino

    Nurse is a great prospect and exciting player to watch. For sure his future on this team is a bright one and I can’t wait to watch him play in the NHL. I think he still has some aspects of his games he needs to develop and improve on. Maybe half a season in the AHL and then being called up to the NHL after Chiarelli gets rid of some bodies on trade deadline day would be best for Nurse.

    As for Leon, he is listed as a left shot and the few times he has played the wing in the WHL he plays on the LW. I think if he makes the team this year he could LW the 3rd line maybe the 2nd. I’m excited to watch him play with skilled forwards.

  • DaveChamp

    I hope both Drai and Nurse start in the AHL for the first 10 games, then evaluate. If this doesn’t happen then PC is no better than MacT

    The play in training camp doesn’t mean too much as the veterans don’t give their all and 1/2 the opposition team are AHL players or drafted junior players.

  • hagar

    Let us choose who those Phantom Roster players he is maybe talking about .

    Defence I would say anyone beyond Sekara , Klefbom and Fayne . Sounds like he views Fayne best suited for 3rd pairing down the line .

    Offensively you might have Korpikoski , Lander . Purcell (entire 3rd line now) , and Klinkhammer as phantoms . McDavid gifted a spot .

    I think it is wide open for Nurse and Reinhart to grab a spot . McDavid obviously , but Draisitl I am not so sure he will grab a spot right away . He has got good skills and speed , but does he have the quickness/lateral mobility as yet . Often reminds me of Dustin Penner , and that’s not in a bad way .

  • Dino

    Off topic, I saw Leon set up two shots in the final 5 seconds of regulation.

    There should be a stat for “shot assists”, counted as a pass immediately translated into a shot. Then as a derivative, “shot assist percentage”. I imagine Joe Thornton’s stats would be off the charts, especially the year Cheechoo scored 50.

  • Dino

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care who makes the team. It would just be nice if I didn’t waste my time watching a bottom feeder again this year

  • Train#97

    A little off topic but I am still furious at Wanye’s article where he trashed Taylor Hall.

    I just finished reading an article about Joey Moss. His favourite player is Taylor Hall.

    Joey knows a few things about people.

  • Train#97

    Hopefully Chiarelli remembers that players need to earn their spots when it comes to Reinhart as well. He stated that he expects him to make the team even though it looks like he needs another season (or more) in the AHL.

  • bradleypi

    Great to see lots of tempered expectations on Drai and Nurse. Time and space to make plays in the NHL is substantially less than the AHL so a lot more of your play has to be instinct – particularly for D where they are the last skater before the net. It will take time.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I think the only thing keeping Nurse off the Oilers to start the year is his learning when to pinch and when not to. From watching him in the OHL playoffs, WJC, and the rookie tournament, he seems to pinch more often than he should. If he can learn asap when to read the play, and pinch when there’s no chance of getting caught, then yes he should be on the team no question. The rest of his game, I love! But as we’ve all seen with Jultz, it can cost when all you do as a dman in the offensive zone is pinch.

    Nurse will be a beast no question.

  • bradleypi

    Wonder why Chia did not try dropping 3.5 million on Cody Franson for a couple of years. Another RD would have helped.

    Anyway, hopefully Jultz or Nikitin can have a comeback season and solidify our right side.

  • bradleypi

    Comical how some fans rush to judgement on keeping incumbents to give them the positions ignoring all their warts , yet rush to send the rookies to AHL until they clean up all their warts before entering NHL . Comical double standards . You really think a new coach is going to take the warts off the incumbents and failed projects ? Good luck .

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Draisaitl is unquestionably an NHL calibre prospect. The only questions to be answered are (1)Is he a winger or a centre? (2) Is he ready now or in a couple of months?

    The reason the Oilers hired Petey and Toddler is to make these decisions and they will. As disappointing as it may be, I don’t think they will be aski

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Draisaitl is unquestionably an NHL calibre prospect. The only questions to be answered are (1)Is he a winger or a centre? (2) Is he ready now or in a couple of months?

    The reason the Oilers hired Petey and Toddler is to make these decisions and they will. As disappointing as it may be, I don’t think they will be consulting with any of us.

  • J.R.

    Nurse & Draisaitl will both skate in the show this year. When and how many games is the remaining discussion. You can throw Reinhart in too.

    Having these three available in game shape when the injury bug bites will be a nice turn around from last year.

  • 15w40

    Utter incompetence to have Nurse and Draisatl in minors while the NSF black hole playsand garbage like Kline hammer and Korpikoski play any games for the Oilers.

    It would be different if Chiarelli had done his job and actually addressed the Oilers defence this past summer.

    Please Willis ,concede that Chiarelli us as incompetent as MacTavish.

    Oh, did I mention Double Hamilton was scooped by Calgary, while Chiarelli dithered!

  • hagar

    Willis : Please list all the warts McDavid , Draisaitl , Reinhart and Nurse have . Then list all the warts of the incumbents . Then figure out how fast the young ones might make the adjustments when veterans unlikely to get any better at clearing up their warts . Not like the old dynasty Oilers did not go with just 4 rookies , I believe it was 5 or 6 and all under 21 . The year after we started to flourish . McDavid is the new era , why wait till next year to add the youth if they are just as good or better option than incumbents now ? Then again , it was Sather calling the shots back then . Every player has some warts it just to what degrees . Youth panned out quite well for us under Sather and Gretzky .

    • Gretzky broke into the league with the young Oilers 35 years ago. It’s a little bit crazy to cite that as a precedent and ignore more recent clusters; like that Smid, Gagner, Cogliano, Nilsson group that got shoved into NHL action early right after Pronger left town. Remind me how things worked there?

      Second, why bring McDavid and Reinhart into it? McDavid’s a first overall pick and a rather special one; normal rules don’t apply there. Reinhart spent a full season in the AHL after turning pro; he’s NHL-ready in my view and there’s no case that he was rushed.

      Third, did you read the piece above? I have Draisaitl making the roster, and don’t have any problem with that (unlike last year, when he should have been sent down after nine games). I have Nurse getting a month or two in the AHL. If you think that’s excessive, have it your way.

      The point I was making is that sometimes there are developmental reasons that supersede immediate roster concerns.

      The Oilers goal needs to be to make Nurse the absolute best player he can be, not to make sure the 2015-16 opening night defence is marginally better than it might otherwise be. This is a decision that’s literally going to have ramifications for the next 15 years. If he shows so well in camp that it’s clear he’s ready, great, play him. If he doesn’t, remember how Gagner and Lander and Smid and the rest were handled and remember what the results were.

      I’m sure Logan Couture could have helped the Sharks right out of the gate in 2009-10. I’m also sure the organization doesn’t have any regrets about the way it handled him.

      • How can you or anyone else ignor the template of how we ended up winning five Stanley cups ? Sounds to me like you would have been all over Sather back in the days . Some fans clamour for bold moves but almost always settle for conservative ones rather than risk bold .

        Remind us all how Sather’s bold template can never work again . Did you really expect your example to work anywhere near as well as the first ? I certainly did not , nor was it close personnel wise . We seem to see things differently . No big deal .

  • J.R.

    The AHl is to give those players with a lot of warts to work out at a level below NHL . I doubt Reinhart , Nurse , Draisaitl or McDavid fall into that category .

  • J.R.

    One big up for Nurse was watching him do a great job of covering McDavid 1-on-1 in the OHL playoffs. If he can skate with McDavid 95% of the time (and he can)and maintain good position (he did) I have to believe he’s NHL ready as well.

    Sure he has some learning to do but the only reason Nurse stays out is because of one body too many in the line up. The Oilers will make room for him via trade or (more likely) waivers sooner than later.

    Nurse is good to go now.

  • J.R.

    Success for Leon D will happen if he gets to play with two guys that can finish around the net (hell I’ll take two dudes that just like to shoot). If he plays with the big club this year he will need to be a play making winger….sound like someone we used to know around these parts?

    Rhymes with “Palash Demski”

  • J.R.

    My educated guess is Oilers will follow the Sather template and put up with their (youth) mistakes and watch them grow all together like the old Oilers did . By midseason we should see some real advances and chemistry in that tightly knitted group going forward into next season and beyond . Bringing only one blue chip on board over last few seasons has not panned out for us as good as was hoped for , nor the results . Let the new era begin now and take advantage of our blue chip youth together A.S.A.P. Not like Oiler fans would not want to see it .

    If you want to see how successful we were back then , just read Brownlee’s column on that year , and last two paragraphs in particular . Better more entertaining hockey we should be afraid of ?

  • M22

    It seems that all the talk is focused on Draisaitl having to switch to the wing in order to make the team. Isn’t that the same as gifting the 3rd line center position to Lander ? Why is there so little talk about Lander switching to the wing and Draisaitl being 3rd line center, between, say, Lander and Purcell ? After all, isn’t size at the center position the main reason we drafted Drai ?

    • hagar

      I wanna see Leon challenge Nuge for the number 2 center in a couple years!

      Leon was picked to be the number two future center, and Mcdavid threw in a wrench. Let’s not forget his potential, and you are right in questioning why he isn’t being considered for third line C.

      Why not take a future center star, and put a future third or fourth liner like lander on notice for his spot?

      I can see Leon making the team third line center, and lander moving to wing or back to ahl.

      Lots of questions being answered very very soon. It’s all very exciting!

    • Train#97

      I don’t think we figured on getting McDavid when we drafted Draisaitl. A guy with his talents would be wasted on the third line. He needs to play top six minutes

      • So your arguement is that even if he is better than any forward other than the top six, he is too good to play on the third line so he must go to Bakersfield.

        Our NHL squad has to consist of 6 top forwards and 8 bottom forwards. Thanks, i understand how the Oilers are going to win now.

  • 15w40

    Lander will not clear waivers this year if they try to send him to the AHL. I would rather Draisaitl play #1 center in Bakersfield than 3rd line winger for the Oilers.

    Based on the interview it sounds to me like Nurse starting in the AHL is better than 90%. Reinhart will get the push first.

    Depending on how the development curve goes for Yak and Draisaitl, I think it’s better than 75% that one of them or the original big 3 (Hall/RNH/Ebs) are gone 2 yrs from now.

  • 15w40

    Willis : What Sather did was low risk high reward , and it worked extremely fast and well as we know . It’s not like we have now with keeping a lot of the incumbents . We are stuck in low risk low reward by doing so .

  • Absolutist – what a cool word.

    any theory holding that values, principles, etc., are absolute and not relative, dependent, or changeable.

    There are some ON Posters that need to understand this isn’t necessarily a good thing.