Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What to expect from Darnell Nurse?

Welcome, citizens, to a long weekend edition of the mailbag where your friendly neighbourhood Nation writers, once again, help you make sense of all things Edmonton Oilers. If you’re working today, we hope that these here 2,000 words of worldly wisdom help you kill off a little bit of company time while also teaching you a little something at the same time. As always, I always need you guys for this feature so email me your questions to [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Rob asks – Last season, Darnell Nurse set a new career-high in goals, assists, and points (10G, 31A for 41 points) and I’m wondering what everyone is expecting from him in 2019-20?

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Jason Gregor:

He was 18th in the NHL in EV points among defenders with 31. I suspect that remains about the same. His PP points likely go down. I’m not sure we see him on the top unit as much, so I’ll say 35  points.

Robin Brownlee:

If you’re talking points, I think he can be in the 35-40 point range again. The big jump in his production last season came on the PP (1-8-9). He had no PP points the previous season. I don’t see the 41 points as a benchmark on the way to higher production but rather a total that sets the kind of reasonable range (35-40) I mentioned. That’s pretty good in today’s NHL.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

Points wise, I’ll be expecting more of the same. It would be nice to see him prove that this past season wasn’t an anomaly. Away from the stat sheet, I’d like to see him take some big strides forward in terms of his ability to make a crisp first pass and in general, prove that he can move the puck up ice with good puck movement instead of just skating it up the ice by himself all the time. Wouldn’t mind seeing him prove that he can consistently quarterback the second powerplay unit as well.

Christian Pagnani:

I’d expect big minutes with either Adam Larsson or Matt Benning/Joel Persson, maybe even Evan Bouchard later in the year. I don’t think he’ll hit 40 points, but 30 is still possible. He won’t get powerplay time. Klefbom, Persson, Bouchard will get time over him and I wonder if a ‘shutdown’ pairing of Nurse-Larsson makes his counting stats fall a bit.


I bet he’ll land somewhere within the 30-40 point mark again. Anything over that would be a huge bonus, but my main concern is that he continues to work on the defensive side of his game. Oilers need as much help keeping the puck out of their own net as they do putting it in the other one.

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2) Paul asks – Obviously, the Andrej Sekera buyout created an opportunity for someone to grab a spot on the third pairing and I’m wondering what Caleb Jones has to do to make the gamble worth it? Does he have to produce points or is simply playing a steady game enough?

Jason Gregor:

Steady would be great. I wouldn’t expect many points out of Jones, especially because he isn’t a lock to make the team. If he does he won’t replace Sekera on third pair LD, as Russell will play there. Jones will battle on the right side with Joel Persson and Matt Benning.

Robin Brownlee:

There are more candidates than Jones, but I’d be looking at him and Joel Persson. The ability to play reliable minutes trumps offensive production for a new player coming in. Be reliable and go from there. The rest comes after.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think if he can just give the Oilers solid 5v5 minutes and not get completely worked by the opposition on a regular basis, he’ll be on the team for 82 games. All they need him to do is move the puck well and be a steady third-pairing defenseman. He shouldn’t have to face very much tough competition. As far as point production, I’m not expecting much from Jones unless he gets a steady dose of powerplay time.

Christian Pagnani:

Jones should be a bonafide third-pairing defenceman and push for time in the top four occasionally. I really liked Jones in Edmonton last season. I would start him on the left side on the third pairing. I know he played the right side in Bakersfield and at times in the NHL, but starting a rookie on his offside feels like something the Oilers of the last decade would do.


I’m expecting more of the same of what we saw from him last year: sheltered minutes on the third pairing until he proves he can handle more. I think he can do it.

3) Stephen S. asks – With all of the bottom six players Ken Holland brought in to create competition, I can’t help but wonder what will happen to a guy like Kyle Brodziak. Seeing as he was a healthy scratch at times last season, do you think he’ll stick with the club by the time the season starts?

Jason Gregor:

Most of the new faces are wingers. Brodziak will be pushed by Colby Cave for the fourth line C spot. I don’t see him being a regular every night.

Robin Brownlee:

I think Kyle is a 13th forward at best now. I think he’ll be hard-pressed to be in the line-up as often as he sits, if he’s here at all.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He looked really slow last year and I would be worried that with another full season under his belt, he could slow down even more. If I had to guess, the only way he’ll be on the Oilers roster is as a veteran 13th forward. They could put him on waivers and send him to Bakersfield without much of a cap penalty, so that’s likely an option they’d look at as well.

Christian Pagnani:

He makes the team, but doesn’t play the first few games. They need centers, but Brodziak looked done last season. He does shoot right, but I don’t think he brings enough to play regularly anymore.


Will be a veteran guy in the room that doesn’t play every game. Would it be unfair to say 13th forward? Seems likely, no?

4) Clare asks – When I submitted this question, Jesse Puljujarvi is still an Oiler and it’s starting to seem like he might be back in the fall. Are you surprised at all by the way this scenario has played out so far?

Jason Gregor:

I’m a bit surprised he is so adamant he doesn’t want to play in Edmonton, but he clearly has his reasons. I’m not surprised Holland has been patient. Why would he rush just to appease Puljujarvi. He is only 21 and could still become a solid NHL player, so Holland won’t just give him a way.

Robin Brownlee:

Jesse and his agent doubled down on insisting he’ll play in Europe this week. I am surprised because he’s got the perfect second chance he says he wants with a new GM, head coach and staff here, but apparently that’s not good enough. I think he’s making a mistake. The best way to prove you’re an NHL player is to play in the NHL. He’s closer to becoming a worse bust than Nail Yakupov than he is to establishing that.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I have said it multiple times on both Oilersnation Radio, the Real Life Podcast, and on TSN 1260 since this saga began. I didn’t think that Puljujarvi was going to give up NHL paychecks and a chance to come in and play under a new head coach this season. There’s obviously still a chance he’s traded or decides to abandon the NHL, but I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if he’s back in Oilers colours this September.

Christian Pagnani:

A bit, but not really. Puljujarvi has to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL, which obviously wouldn’t happen. Teams are probably less interested when they have to put him on their NHL roster, especially since he hasn’t shown much in his NHL time. I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen him moved for a draft pick or another highly-picked prospect struggling. It could still happen. Yakupov was moved a few days before the season started. Maybe a team isn’t thrilled with a former first or second-round pick of their own and the Oilers make that trade.


I love it. I love that Ken Holland is calling the agent’s bluff when he said he would go play in Europe. There is still plenty of time left until the season starts so anything can happen, but I’m starting to think more and more that Jesse will be an Oiler come October.

5) Blake asks – I’m a big fan of going to watch the Oil Kings but can’t help but feel like the Oilers could do a better job of promoting and supporting the team. What do you think they could do to try and get more fans to Rogers Place for the Oil Kings?

Jason Gregor:

Promote them more during Oilers games would be a start. A bit more promotion wouldn’t hurt, but unless ticket prices drop I don’t see them gaining much traction on weekday games. Weekend games still draw quite well. It would cost a lot, but if Edmonton had a 5,000-10,000 seat rink it would make for a much better atmosphere at Oil Kings games. Other teams could use it as well and it would be much better. Rogers is simply too big for the Oil Kings.

Robin Brownlee:

According to Hockey DB, the Oil Kings led the WHL in attendance last season, followed by Calgary. Nothing sells the product like winning. What is it you think the Oilers should be doing?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Oh, this question is right in my wheelhouse. When was the last time you were at Rogers Place for an Oilers game and saw an advertisement for the upcoming Oil Kings game? The answer is never. They don’t get very much coverage when they’re on the road either. I will give the new Oil Kings regime a lot of credit for taking some big strides forward in the last year, but there is still work to do. The organization is starting to do more to promote themselves, but if the Oilers gave them an ounce of help, it would go a long way. Edmonton needs to prove it’s a hockey town, not just an Oilers town.

Christian Pagnani:

Cheap food and drinks. Maybe they already do this, but I’ve never heard of it.


Let’s start with promoting them during Oilers games since that’s what most people tend to care about. From there, how about tossing out a specific section of really cheap seats so that more people can go? I know that Oil Kings tickets are already reasonably priced but wouldn’t it be dope to have a couple of sections in the upper bowl (they’d have to open that, mind you) that were $5 each? Call it college corner or whatever you want to. I’d have another charity section where every ticket is given away to local kids and families to give them the opportunity to get out to a game. Remember, if you’re in the building you’ll probably buy something else, so why not do whatever it takes to get as many bodies in there as possible?


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  • CMG30

    If I was Ken Holland I would be rubbing my hands with glee at having JP self select himself to go to Europe. He clearly still needs work on his game but due in part to Oiler mismanagement of his development he is no longer able to clear AHL waivers. Having JP play in Europe is the ideal spot for JP currently, even if he is going there for the wrong reasons.

    If I was Holland, I would not shop JP at all. Of course you always listen to any serious offers coming in but unless something really knocks your socks off you wait the kid out. If he wants to play in the NHL he’s going to have to deal with the Oilers at some point. As much as the Oilers mismanaged JP up to this point, the player also bares substantial responsibility for where he is development-wise on the ice. Off the ice, he clearly also has a lot of growing to do…

  • madjam

    Looks like Oilers can get little to no value for Jesse , therefore , send him back to Finland until such time as he increases his value if that is even possible now . He seems to not fit in with the Oilers players and thus mutually might be preferable he does not come back to Oilers . Doubt Jesse will increase his value here and get in the minors without someone picking him up for free on waivers . Thus , see you Jesse , hope you can find a game there so Oilers can finally get something for you .

  • Abagofpucks

    With Nurse being in his last year of his deal with an eye on another contract, don’t be surprised if we see him get more points than last year. I also think he will be better overall and take another step up as a top defenseman.

    I just can’t see why fans and media don’t really believe he will get better.

  • Fireball

    I would like to see more of Nurse on the PP. he is the first Oiler D since Souray and Gilbert to put up 40 plus. I think he could excel in that spot if given the chance. He is obviously more suited for it than Kleff as he done what Kleff has been unable to do.

    • Fireball

      Brodziak seems to have lost a step and his drive. There’s was a stretch last season with the identity line where he seemed to turn it up. I think in order for him to be in the lineup / keep up he would have to give 110% every shift and that he failed to do last year. I really don’t see how he fits.

      • Fireball

        I’m looking forward to seeing which kid will take the D spot. There are multiple way it could play out. The one thing this organization has managed to do over the last three years is build up the stables. Only fail so far seems to be Jesse and most teams would had taken him there.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Actually, over the last three years, aggregated, Klef has produced at 3.43P/60 and Nurse at 2.85P/60 at 5 on 4.

      I think Nurse was slightly better this past year and Klefbom’s numbers are probably propped up from the 2015/16 season where the PP was tops in the league in the 2nd half.

      Neither have proven to be great PP guys but one of them will be the guy this year – perhaps both depending on if Persson is able to hold down a 3rd pairing job (and until Bouchard is called up which may be early 2020 or may wait until October 2020 – time will tell).

  • All Ice

    Strange thing, none of the bloggers here on this site ever seem to mention lagesson when considering defence that could move up this year despite the team seeming high on the prospect. Is there a specific reason for this?

    • OriginalPouzar

      I am a huge fan of Lagesson and have been since I saw him at his first Penticton tournament – a much better puck mover and skater than I anticipated seeing.

      They have developed this player perfectly and, after watching about 50 Condors’ games last year (sometimes just the first couple of periods), I would suggest is is 3LD ready right now – he just needs to get that opportunity.

      One step at a time but I see him as a 22-23 minutes 2LD by the time his second contract expires and he will become a fan favorite.

      A new age Adam Larsson/Jason Smith – an aggressive and physical defence first defender but one that can skate well and move the puck via pass – decent offensive zone instincts as well.

      One step at a time but I’m high on Willie!

      • Ever the Optimist

        I don’t ever recall having this deep a pool of dmen who are all within 1 to 3 years of a legit chance to make the team. This bodes well if Woodcroft can identify the ones w top 4 ability and pump the tires of ones who are not. We will need to start moving the players who will be waiver eligible next year if they don’t really have a shot.

  • hagar

    That dog must have ordered some treats off amazon.

    Speaking of kyle maybe having a hard time making the cut, it’s a thing teams that are putting a decent team together, have happen all the time.

    We have a lot of competition for spots this year, hopefully it is the beginning of a trend towards actual talent in competition for spots, not just being forced to take the rest of the league’s leftovers.

    • billsbills

      The competition is still between leftovers and unproven players at the NHL level. Players need to start punching above their weight class if the Oil hope to be competitive.

      • hagar

        I guess it depends if some of our farm guys are going to take the step this year. We have had very few farm guys over the years develop their way onto the team.

        I was imagining this year at least a couple will make the team, and that makes more competition from the leftovers.

        Hopefully it works out that way, and continues to be the way things work going forward, and a PTO to hopefully fill a spot becomes less common.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Even if Shatternkirk made sense for the Oilers as far as roster construction and cap hit, lets not forget that its been confirmed all 7 Canadian teams were on his no trade list.

    I don’t imagine he would have signed with Edmonton unless there was a material overpay in AAV and/or term and, of course, the Oilers aren’t in a position to do that.

    Yes, relying on Joel Persson/Caleb Jones/Ethan Bear/Evan Bouchard to fill that right side defence role is a risk but signing Shatternkirk for term is a greater risk as its a risk with future implications.

    If Matty Benning can solidify that 2RD spot, things get much easier because i’m confortable the 3RD spot can be filled internally.

    Matty Benning and Oscar Klefbom have very nice numbers through the years and, of course, none of that is 3rd pairing (i.e. Klef) – I’ve go to think the following makes sense going in to camp:


    XXXX = Persson likely
    XXXX could = Jones but Tippett does prefer leftie rightie.

    I think we could see Jones in the AHL to start and Manning on the roster – solely for pressbox while Persson fills 3RD. If Persson fails and/or injuries happen, Jones/Laggeson get the call depending on handedness and/or type of player needed.

    To be clear, Manning is only on the roster to sit in the pressbox and for an emergency and so that Jones isn’t sitting in the press box.

    I wouldn’t mind:

    Jones(Lagesson)/Persson as the third pairing if they are proving to be capable but don’t imagine Tippett sits Russell to start the year.

      • OriginalPouzar

        In the actual reality where, in his play on the 2nd pairing over the last few years, the Oilers score more goals than the opposition (which makes a bit of sense considering they drive the play with the shot share and possession game).

        You notice the mistakes – yes, he’ll get beat every once in a while and there will be odd-man rushes against. It happens. At the same time, its happening more going the other way when he’s been on the ice.

        I know you won’t agree via the “eye test” but the Oilers score more goals than the opposition with Benning on the ice and this happens in the top 4 and the goal share and other metrics of his partners improve when paired with Benning.

        I know “analytics” will get bashed but percentage of goals scored is somewhat primary.

  • ed from edmonton

    1. This is obviously a big year for Nurse as it will directly impact his next contract. It will be interesting to see how Tippett see the power play and who gets the lion’s share of pp time between Klef and Nurse. Nurse is closing in on the magic 300 game mark that many say is required for an NHL Dman to reach his dull potential. I suggest there is still room for improvement in Nurses game and once again to see him in top 20 scoring Dmen.
    2. We don’t know what Joel Persson will bring but we do know that Tipett would like Dmen to play on their natural side. I expect that Persson will be given plenty of opportunity to show he can play NHL minutes and if he pans out RD will be Larssen, Benning, Person, LHD will be Klef,Nurse,Russel, Jones. If Persson isn’t up to the task then either Russel or Jones will need to be on the right side.

    3. The Oil critically need a 3C and I don’t mean a dark horse like Haas. If they find one Brodziak might find himself on waivers at cut down date. If there are no better options he may be in the starting lineup om peneing night. A sign of how weak the Oil roster is.

    4. Up until the quotes out of Finland recently I expected JP to sign a 1 year contract with the Oil because he would have no better option. But he now seems to have double down on his desire not to pay in Edmonton. JP has not shown to be a asset to the Oil so remain hopeful he will spend a development year in Europe. Definitely the best outcome for the Oil.

    • 1ncinawhile

      On JP… I think the best thing to happen would be if he played in Europe… it would possibly increase his value for trade…. Second best would be if he could eat some humble pie and play a year for the Oil… I don’t see that happening now though – I think Holland has done well by playing hardball.

  • Violentgent13

    One of Nurse/Klefbom stats will go up this year. I’m betting on Nurse since he’ll need another contract. I can see him hitting 45-50 points this season. Thus, resulting in a big payday. 7x7m.
    Also, not saying Klefs not going to having a bad season but I just really want him to be healthy all year. A healthy year would be a great one

  • OriginalPouzar

    Nurse was not only 13th in 5 on 5 points last year, as Jason mentions, but he’s near the top 10 over the last 2.5 seasons aggregated. I know, the production seems to out pace the “offensive instincts” via the eye test but, at some point, when the production is year after year after year, it needs to be accepted for what it is. Sure, its zoomed by McDavid, however, most production for top 4 d-men are zoomed by playing with their team’s star offensive players.

    While Nurse’s P/60 at 5 on 4 are actully slightly better than Klef’s historic numbers (except for the one massive PP season a few year’s back), I assume we’ll see Klef back on the PP over Nurse and likely Persson there as well. If Persson doesn’t make the team, Nurse could still get some PP time as I don’t see Jones as a great PP guy, see Bear needing more development time and, of course, Bouchard shouldn’t be an option until the flip of the calendar.

    • OriginalPouzar

      More than anything, I’m excited to see what Nurse can do with a “new” partner. Given Klefbom and Benning’s sparkling numbers together over the last 3 years (over 700 minutes at 5 on 5 and positive accross the board), I look forward to the Nurse/Larsson pairing. They struggled last year but Larsson struggled in all situations and I look for him to have a big bounce back year.

      Lets not forget, Nurse/Larsson were a fantastic pairing the previous years – they ended up plus 15 and plus 10. Yes, plus/minus can be a poor stat, however, to be positive in top pairing minutes on a non-playoff team that had a negative goal differential at 5 on 5, well, its telling.

  • billsbills

    Darnell has improved every season since he came into the league. He’s determined and a great athlete. The biggest question on how many points he gets, will be dependent on how many games Klefbom plays. But within 2 season, I expect he will pass Klefbom on the depth chart. If Klefbom is still here.

    There are tons of questions on the bottom pairing. If health isn’t a factor, I expect a right shot on the right side and Russell as the 3rd left. That pushes Jones out as he’s a left shot right pairing. But if he can play the wall on the right side at the NHL level, maybe he has a chance.

    Brodziak is done. 13th forward out of respect for a long career?

    The Oil kings need to be a winning team and people will go.

  • Loilty

    I’d like to hear what McDavid has to say about the Puljujarvi situation. He is the captain, he should be a part of the solution to bring him back in to training camp.

  • Elgin R.

    1. Jesse
    Ken Holland has been through this type of situation when he was Detroit GM. He will not be pushed around by a player or agent. Jesse will get his ‘big ice’ game back playing in Europe. I could see him coming back to the Oilers after Christmas when no trade has materialized.

    2. Defense
    This is a transition year for the Oilers and it is a long season. What about a ‘load-management’ system for the defencemen so that they play around 72 games instead of the 82.
    Klefbom – Larson
    Nurse – Benning
    Jones – Person or Bear
    Russel can play any of the bottom 4 positions. Select some road games and have one of the rookies watch and learn. At home where the rookies can be sheltered with the last line change, have Russel replace one of Nurse or Benning. When Klefbom or Larson are given a night off move up either Nurse or Benning. By the trade deadline Bouchard should be in the lineup and we will know if Person or Bear are legitimate. If they are, trade Benning to get a legitimate 3C.

    3. Veterans
    Brodziak had value as a 13th forward, as does Gagner, and they are both gone after this year. If they are better than the other 3rd / 4th liners then play them. If not, they can watch or go to Bakersfield. I suspect the same situation with Chiasson next year.

    • OriginalPouzar

      If an RFA doesn’t sign by December 1, they are ineligible to play for the rest of the year.

      If Jesse does sign in Karpat (or on whichever KHL team holds his rights, I can’t recall), he is unlikely to come back this season.

  • hockeyartist

    If two players are close in ranking, one from Europe, one from North America I would always take take the North American because they are used to the ice size and brand of hockey and they can speak english. i.e. Tkachuk vs. Pujujarvi.

  • Derkus the circus

    Prove something before you get an attitude J.P. In regards to Nurse i hope he stays at 30 to 40 pts next yr and sign an extension for sensible dollars. Lets hope