What Darnell Nurse Would Mean for the Condors

It’s pretty clear that the Bakersfield Condors roster just got a whole lot stronger than many originally expected.

After the twin bill of pre-season games on Monday night during which the Edmonton Oilers knocked off both of the Calgary Flames’ split-squads, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said he was going to quickly move towards separating the roster. By that it would mean the locks for the roster and the very close contenders would be muddled into one group. The other group would be the longshots and sure-to-be-sent-down prospects and minor-leaguers.

Darnell Nurse was not in the locks/contenders group.

So it would seem that Nurse is going to require some seasoning in the minors, which is entirely good news for the Condors.

Depending on who was speculating, Nurse was either too good to be held back from making the Oilers or it would be more prudent to let him grow with the AHL Condors, at least at the start of the 2015-16 season. The Oilers’ top defence prospect, who was chosen in the first round of the 2013 draft, was slightly pushed down the depth chart with the highly touted off-season acquisition of Griffin Reinhart, and Reinhart, as of Monday, was in the upper crust group.

While that’s not the greatest of situations for Nurse personally, it is a big boost to the Condors. Their probable top-6 D just got a whole lot more appetizing:

Brad Hunt – Darnell Nurse

Jordan Oesterle – Dillon Simpson

David Musil – Brandon Davidson

Joey Laleggia – Nick Pageau

Martin Gernat

It won’t hurt Nurse being groomed in the AHL for a bit, which the Oilers are starting to do more of now than rushing prospects. That’s chapter-and-verse out of the Detroit Red Wings’ playbook, one which the Oilers seem to be delving further into, and one that McLellan is very familiar with, being a former assistant to Mike Babcock in Motor City. 

For the Condors, it’s a big bolstering of their blueline, and having a highly touted seventh-overall pick on the roster is a significant presence. There are still some pieces to fall into place, however, for the final six (plus one spare) to be finalized.

The Oilers will have to decide whether they want to risk putting Brandon Davidson on waivers in order to send him down to Bakersfield. But Edmonton might not have a choice considering there are eight defenceman already in the main group, including fading veterans Andrew Ference (oh, yes, that’s Captain Ference which makes matters even more convoluted), and Nikita Nikitin. Depending on how those two, especially Nikitin, fare in the next series of pre-season games, it would seem more than likely the Condors are going to get Davidson unless another NHL team sticks their hand up when he hits the waiver wire.

A further monkeying of the entire situation could also happen if the Oilers elect to send Reinhart down, should they try to move out Ference or Nikitin.

Nurse’s seemingly forthcoming demotion very likely affects Joey Laleggia, the former NCAA standout, former ECHL Condor Nick Pageau, and onetime hopeful Martin Gernat.

The Condors will keep seven D so you’d have to suspect it’s better for Pageau to play the spare-part role than have a mid-range prospect like Laleggia sit instead of playing in Norfolk. Gernat could squeeze Pageau out, but it’s still reasonable to assume Gernat either goes down to Norfolk or the Oilers loan him out to a European team.

To The Nest

Forwards Alexis Loiseau, Connor Rankin, and Marco Roy, along with defenceman Ben Betker and goalie Ty Rimmer were all sent down by the Oilers and assigned to the Condors over the weekend. All three of the forwards are going to hard-pressed to stay in Bakersfield.

Tyler Pitlick seems on the verge of a demotion sooner rather than later and Braden Christoffer may have made enough of an impression to at least start the year in the AHL.

Roy was a former high pick of the Oilers but dropped so badly after being picked in the second round (56th overall) of the 2013 draft that he was not offered an entry-level contract and was instead signed by Edmonton at a far lower price tag as a free agent. With Bogdan Yakimov, Kyle Platzer, Jujhar Khaira, and Phil McRae — all centres higher on the depth chart — Roy is probably headed for Norfolk, which is rapidly becoming the Paris of Virginia with the number of French-Canadian players ticketed for the Admirals lineup, along with new head coach Eric Veilleux.

It’s a shame that Rimmer is unlikely to stay in Bakersfield since he was a good presence with the ECHL Condors a year ago and is a feel-good story with his successful battle overcoming cancer. But with Laurent Brossoit headed here for sure and either Ben Scrivens or Anders Nilsson getting a demotion, Rimmer is bound for Norfolk.

However, there’s a chance that depth chart changes if Scrivens or Nilsson are either picked up on waivers or traded instead of being assigned to Bakersfield. Finnish import Eetu Laurikainen is still going to be the main man in Norfolk.


The Condors played host on Monday night to a pre-season tilt between the L.A. Kings and Phoenix Coyotes which drew around 6,000 to Rabobank Arena along with some praise from Kings mascot Bailey.

Big thanks to the staff of the @Condors and @RabobankArena for an amazing time last night! GREAT JOB GUYS!

There’s every good reason to expect the Oilers come to Bakersfield in 2016 for a pre-season game against the Kings who play just two hours away.

  • Makaveli

    It beats sitting in the press box. At least he would get quality top line minutes in the AHL. What would be worse though is if he clearly outplays NN or AF or even GR or EG for that matter and is sent down… luckily, I think the new management is smarter than that.

  • Makaveli

    As much as i want to see Darnell in Oilers silks, getting time in the A right now is the smart move, both on a development level and management level (contracts etc).

    Nurse will most likely see time with the big club seeing as our bottom pair is suspect. Let him get the 22+ in the A, get stronger and be confident when he gets with us.

    Good luck Darnell!

  • Makaveli

    Nurse is NHL ready as McLellan pointed out . He is not going to Condors . Nurse has elements to his game nobody else on defence brings as well as he does . Todd has already said he is in the move to new mix to stay . In a nutshell , he is already being promoted . Now for him to continue and solidify that decision in next couple of matches .

    • For Pete's Sake!

      The fact that he’s in Group “B” shows that McLellan actually has him slated for Bakersfield.

      He’s going to have to play awfully well for the rest of camp to change Todd’s mind.

      • bradleypi

        No it does not , as he continued his interview to show how many from San Jose made that from group B into A very quickly . In a nutshell , neither group is in stone yet . He expects a few to jump up in group .

        ROLLING OUT THE HYPE MACHINE for NURSE : Nurse brings a higher degree of physicality to team that desperately lacks it in the Western Conference especially . He has superior range and stick acumen to all our other defenceman . He has a decent if not higher offensive ability and speed than most on team . His fighting is tops on team to Gazdic and capable of intimidating others , not like current defenseman do , or lack thereof . Check off all the areas others may be ahead of him in any aspect of the game , and he ranks very high if not superior in most .Those areas where he might below the others are relatively small in comparison to the ones he is way ahead of the others . Well that’s my opinion based on small sample size so far , and I have him rated top 4 above Fayne , Gryba and Reinhart . Defensively I rank him above Schultz as well . Nikitin and Ference I do not have being in the picture sorry to say .

        • bradleypi

          Looks like you just quoted something matt Henderson wrote. And we all know how most of oilersnation writers feel about ference, Niki and schultz. So I’ll take all you wrote with a grain of salt. It’s not a surprise that oilersnation thinks nurse is a top pairing defender. Remember when marincin was the next coming of pronger?? Lol. That was just last year that oilersnation had marincin pegged as a top pairing dman.

    • toprightcorner

      Nurse will not start the year in the NHL, McLellan has 8 dmen listed above him and he will not be spending time in the press box. He needs to play 20 min a night, PP and PK time and playing against offensively minded competition. He will not get that in the NHL.

      He will be with the Condors until at least Christmas. He could get some time with the big club after Christmas more than likely because of injury.

      Nurse will be a top pairing NHL dman for many years but it is tougher for a dman to learn in the NHL and once he does so in the AHL he will quickly climb the NHL ladder.

      Just look at Klefbom. He could have played in the NHL 2 years ago but they groomed him and now he is one of the Oilers top 3 dman. By the middle of next season he will be in the Oilers top 4 at the age of 21.

      • For Pete's Sake!

        Will you acknowledge that McLellan told each group at start of camp that each group has a door to go up or down , depending on how they do here in exhibition games , etc.. There is a revolving door for both of them . He went to great lengths to explain to each group how it works here , and how it worked in San Jose , and all that had made that transition successfully . You have somehow closed that door when Todd certainly has not done that.

      • bradleypi

        Wow. Klef is a 2nd pairing dman because the oilers don’t have a true top pairing. Not because he played lights out last year. If Klef is on a playoff team, he’s a 3rd pairing guy. He’s still so young.

  • Makaveli

    His going to be a real force when he makes to the big league. Didn’t know he can really throw punches too. He is what the type of player the oilers desperately need.

    • bradleypi

      Seriously???? Wow! If he’s so good then why is he not in the nhl then? If it’s such a no brainer. Lol. I bet if he’s put on waivers, which will happen because he’s NOT an nhl caliber dman yet, he will not get claimed. He’s not as hot a commodity as oilersnation hypes him up to be.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    Still plenty of time before the season starts. Its one thing to say that you want to send Nurse down, but in Year 1 of the McDavid era there is no justification for not icing the best possible team that the Oilers can. A 3rd pairing of Nurse and Rienhart is obviously not ideal, but we ALL(Chiarelli and MacLellan included)know that it would be better than a line of Ference and NN. They got some issues to resolve with contracts, but if Chia comes out at the end of camp and says that the team is better served with Nikitin and Ference than it would be by Nurse, then he should do it with the Who’s ‘Wont Get Fooled Again’ playing in the background. And we should get the ‘FIRE KEVIN LOWE!’ placards out of the closet because the work ain’t as finished as it looked.

  • bradleypi

    I get the feeling that Nurse may be sent into that second group to further push him to make the big squad. McLellan has no desire to make him feel like he’s already won that spot. He’s gotta force him to continue to win it.

  • bradleypi

    I’m all for Nurse being demoted if that means he gets to play a lot of top minutes down on the farm.

    We have options now so there is no rush in getting him in now……….for him playing time is the best compliment so let the kid play, he deserves it.

    Brandon Davidson proved he is ready now and should be given a legitimate chance to play.

  • bradleypi

    So, this site felt the need to post THREE articles about nurse

    Why haven’t I read a thing about Korpi ? he went hard to net all night, got right in the dirty areas, played a solid game defensively and cycled the puck real well in the offensive zone.

    He’s also only the only player on this team to win a medal in Sochi. He played on the teams first lane with Granlund and Selanne and put up 2 assists in the medal game. SO underrated by oilersnation community it seems.

    or maybe an article about nilsson? he played AMAZING last night. Clearly a better option than ben scrivens. Scrivens looked shaky the whole night. They definitly would not have won if nilsson didn’t replace him for the second half.

    • bradleypi

      Lol. But if oilersnation just talked about forwards, when would the bloggers and commenters get a chance to slam schultz, ference and Niki? Been a pretty steady diet of that all summer. Why stop now?

      • toprightcorner

        While I agree with you on Davidson, the rest of your takes are kind of out to lunch. Marincin was a STEAL of an acquisition by the Leafs this summer, and I for one won’t be surprised when he comes good there and gets some national attention for it given his new fishbowl surroundings.

        Schultz, Ference, and Nikitin were all horrific last year. Really, really poor. Almost exclusively bad. And sure, the other guys were bad too, but Schultz was the team’s #1, Ference was the team’s captain, and Nikitin was the big-ticket UFA that the Oilers TRADED an asset for the right to sign. Obviously they’re going to take the heat. And rightly so.

        • bradleypi

          I’m out to lunch??? Did you even pay attention or watch marincin last year? He came to camp out of shape and then for the rest of the season could barely stay afloat in the ahl. And this is the guy that’s gonna turn the leafs around and make the oilers regret trading him? Hahaha! Puff puff pass bro. And ya I agree Niki, ference and schultz weren’t all stars last year but neither was ANYONE else on the oilers d last year. Yet they all seem to escape criticism around here. It’s a new year. People can change. Let’s watch more than 1 preseason game to pass judgement on someone

  • Scott Zerr

    Flames right off the bat tried running Nurse at every turn seeing as he was being so physical with them and Flames seeking retribution for his licking of Andersson . They often ran two at him at a time . Nurse took it all with a grain of salt until Smith jumped him . Then Nurse pummelled Smith and Flames backed off him rest of night . Nurse most dominant player on the ice and changed course of game by doing so . It seems pretty obvious most of you watched the game in Edmonton , not the one in Calgary .Laleggia was the benefactor of Flames desire to get Nurse . They are going to need Nurse against a bigger heavier group in Winnipeg . Nurse opens a lot of options when he is on the ice . Did any of our others play better than Nurse ? No . Not even Klefbom . Gryba and Reinhart played well enough , but not at a level Nurse was playing at . He was simply dominating in this game at least against a stacked Flames roster .

  • Reg Dunlop

    Sending Nurse to the minors has no downside? Keep repeating that if he breaks his knuckles on some jobber’s thick melon. He will be challenged frequently by the AHL enforcers hungry to punch their ticket to the bigs.

    Bottom line, if the oil wants to ice the best chance at winning roster, Nurse plays ahead of Andy, Niki, Schultz and Gryba.

  • I cant see how guys like Ference, Nikitin and even Schultz are pegged higher then Nurse on the depth chart? Nurse brings a level of physicality to this team and hes going to dominate the AHL. I’d be more willing to let this defense core just work itself out now with the young guys. Nurse and his physicality are sorely needed against bigger heavier teams and the fact that he pummelled the Flames goon makes him that much more scarier. A big 6’5 intimidating physical defenseman who can play all three zones dont come around often. I dont see why the Oilers want to keep playing Nikitin, send him down to Norfolk or up to Tuktyuktuk.

    • Ference, Nikitin ‘and even Shultz’ have experience.

      Nobody is denying Nurse probably could play in the NHL, but stating he would benefit most from time played at a level closest to his developmental stage. When has not rushing a player turned out badly.

  • Joy S. Lee

    @Scott Zerr

    I have the Bakersfield defense pairings slightly different.

    Nurse – Oesterle*
    Davidson – Simpson
    Laleggia*- Musil

    Should the team continue their quest to build youthful depth, they’ll trade Brad Hunt (Laleggia is similar, younger, and with better range and all-round skills). [Can they throw Purcell, Ference, and Nikitin in with Hunt to acquire a decent draft pick… or something?]

    Nurse won’t be around long, proving himself too good for the AHL, but he’s going to munch lots of minutes in preparation for his permanent NHL gig.

    Next years’ bonus comes when William Laggesson arrives in Bakersfield; I think you’re going to like him, too. BTW, Musil is outstanding in a net-front presence role, and Betker has warts (still a kid) but could develop into a real solid D-man.

    Unrelated to this focus on Nurse and the defense, however, is that the farm club is going to be more skilled and deeper at forward and goalie this time around, too. Season and playoff success are a real possibility for the Condors, even after they lose Nurse to the NHL, due to talented forwards like Pakarinen, Miller, Slepyshev, Yakimov, Chase, Platzer (keep an eye on this kid), with Brossoit and possibly Laurikanen or even Nilsson in net. And the depth players surrounding these potential standouts are all capable of being impact players, themselves. I’ve heard Bakersfield makes their games a lot of fun to be at. The team itself may well compliment that aura of fun tremendously; in short, this season could be a terrific hockey atmosphere in all respects.

    • Scott Zerr

      I don’t disagree with potential pairings, much to be ironed out yet.

      Lots of love towards LaLeggia from Oilers fans which is great. I’m just not sure where he plays, or more accurately, who he plays ahead of in Bakersfield. Musil? Simpson?

      I did see a comment about trading Hunt which isn’t a bad idea but that leaves 0 well-seasoned AHL experienced blueliners in Bako.

      Maybe LaLeggia gets in if Davidson is claimed on waivers which is quite reasonable assumption.

  • Joy S. Lee

    The never ending dialogue about whether Nurse will or will not make the Oilers NHL squad is getting to be rather tiring. This decision will be made by Chiarelli and MacLellan in due time. Nothing written on this site will influence that decision one way or the other.

    What does excite me is that there is actually bona fide competition for almost every contentious spot on the roster. Furthermore, the individuals competing have NHL calibre talent. This has not been the case for almost a decade. Hats off to all responsible for this critical upgrade.

  • ziyan94

    Nurse is not NHL ready. Peter C:

    “There’s a lot of nuances to a defensive game that he has to smooth out. The enthusiasm is there and there’s a lot of good parts, but the puck retrievals and when to funnel off passes and such has to get better. It’ll come.”

    Wanting him to be ready doesn’t make it so. Could we use another stud D. Absolutely. Is it Nurse in 2 years. Absolutely. Is it Nurse today. No.

    He is relatively inexperienced at 20. Yes, there are a number of D that entered the NHL at that age or younger and became extremely successful (e.g. Doughty and Weber) but there are 10X as many that didn’t. Give him time to learn the game on the ice rather in the press box.