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Edmonton Oilers player review and 2022-23 preview: Darnell Nurse

Welcome to the 2021-22 season review and 2022-23 season preview player-by-player! In this, and other articles, I’ll be, well, reviewing the Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 season and previewing the 2022-23 season. You can read about the analytics behind my analysis here.

Darnell Nurse, very queitly, had a strong season in the final year of his bridge deal. He appeared in 71 games scoring nine goals and 35 points. His goal total dipped from the 16 he scored in 2020-21, but that was to be expected due to a wildly high shooting percentage season.

He played in virtually every game beyond the final few of the season after he tore his hip flexor. Truly an incredible performance all around.

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Nurse inked that massive eight-year, $9.25-million deal that is set to kick in this season and if he can keep up the type of performance he had last year, he’ll really start earning that money. The Oilers really hamstrung themselves by bridging him twice — once by Peter Chiarelli and another by Ken Holland himself — and after the flurry of defenceman signings a year ago, you can’t fault Nurse himself for cashing in on the contract.

That being said, Nurse is also right in the prime of his career at 27 years old and once again next year, the Oilers will be heavily relying on the big bruising defenceman.

The analytics

5×5 TOI G – A – P CF CA CF% SCF SCA SCF% GF GA GF% xGF xGA xGF% PDO
Individual 1397:33 6-14-20 1487 1286 53.62 726 664 52.23 59 60 49.58 69.15 58.9 54 99.1
Per/60 19:41 TOI/Gp .26-.6-.86 63.84 55.21 33.17 28.51 2.53 2.58 2.97 2.53
Per/60, RelTm% 6.38 3.97 .91 4.2 1.36 2.39 -.37 .05 -3.93 .43 .09 2.99

Darnell Nurse’s underlying numbers leave a lot to like, but there’s some good stats in here. Nurse has done a good job at helping push the pace of play offensively with shot attempt and scoring chance rates well above team average, but his actual goals and expected goal numbers fall just below the average mark amongst his teammates. Not the worst thing in the world by any mean because average is good, but you’d like to see those numbers a bit higher.

That being said, Nurse has as a whole taken defensive strides in his game. Nearly all of his defensive metrics had improved this year over the past year, and a big part of that had to do with the team bringing in Jay Woodcroft partway through the season.

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Nurse’s isolated impact charts paint a good picture of where he’s at as a whole. Offensively, he contributes at a one percent rate below league average and defensively, a six perent rate above league avearge.

Looking ahead…

Nurse found a home with defenceman Cody Ceci on the Oilers’ top pairing last year and the two looked tremendous under Woodcroft. While Dave Tippett was at the helm, the two controlled 54.8 percent of the shot attempt share and 46.2 percent of the goal share. Under Woodcroft, those numbers were 53.5 percent and 64.2 percent, respectively.

In my eyes, we’re in for a big year from Darnell Nurse on the Oilers backend and he may finally be able to cement himself as one of the best defencemen in the NHL.


Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]