There are a few players in the NHL draft that could be selected anywhere from a top ten spot to all the way into the 20s of the first round; defenseman Darnell Nurse is one of those players. Scouts can't seem to figure out Nurse, with some saying he shouldn't be a first round pick while others claiming he's a sure-fire lock to be a top five talent. It's an interesting dilemma with Nurse, seeing as how predicting his potential and ceiling the NHL seems to be a bit more difficult than most other potential top ten players in this draft.
Darnell Nurse comes from a family of athletes, but the first to play hockey. The son of a former wide receiver int he Canadian Football League, Nurse is also the nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb. Growing up in Canada, his father supported his decision to play hockey and Nurse has certainly started to live up to the hype that preceded him the past few seasons in the OHL.
A big, mobile and nasty defenseman in his own zone, Nurse is similar in playing style to Brenden Dillon. Once thought of as more of a pure shutdown, physical defenseman his offensive potential jumped significantly this past season as he quadrupled his point totals from just a year before.
|2012-2013||Soo Greyhounds (OHL)||68||12||29||41||+15||116|
|2011-2012||Soo Greyhounds (OHL)||53||1||9||10||-15||61|
There's no doubting that Nurse is at his absolute best in his own zone. At 6-4, 190 he's a physically imposing defenseman who is also one of the youngest players in this draft -- his potential to continue to add strength and size to an already considerable frame has many scouts drooling over his potential in the NHL. What's going to hold him back, however, is his well-below average shot and questionable decisions when the puck is on his stick. While his work ethic and character are through the roof, and he's already regarded as a leader on the ice, his hockey sense seems to be a bit below what some would want in a potentially elite defenseman.
You'll hear the name "Shea Weber" thrown out a lot when discussing Nurse, but I think Dion Phaneuf is a much better comparison to make. Nurse has all of the potential to be an elite top pairing defenseman, especially if his offense continues to round into form, and while Phaneuf has struggled at times there are many teams -- including the Stars -- that would love to have a player of that caliber on their blue line.
Hockey Prospectus (Ranked No. 11)
Nurse had a considerable amount of hype at the beginning of the season, and he has exceeded all expectations. He is a gifted physical player who has all the natural tools a scout could want from a defenseman. He has slowly begun to emerge as a two-way player, but his value comes from his high-end work in his own end. Nurse is a tall defender with an aggressive edge and the strength to consistently push his checks off pucks. He has above-average mobility, especially considering his larger size. With his wingspan, he is able to make a multitude of plays in the defensive end. I have heard previous concerns from scouts about his offensive upside, but he took a step forward in that element this season. He will not be a dynamic offensive threat, but he can move the puck at an above-average level, and join the rush on occasion. He projects as a point man on a second power play unit, while logging the tough defensive minutes. Nurse's next level of progression will have to come from his below-average shot.
Craig Button, TSN (NHL Central Scouting, Ranked No. 4 of N. American skaters)
"Big, strong and competitive and he imposes himself on opponents. Very strong skater with quickness, agility and balance that he uses very effectively to close on plays defensively and to move play ahead and out of his defensive zone. Has really developed his offensive game and he shows the capability of being a very well-rounded and dependable player. The type who can ‘log' lots of important minutes in a game and these are valuable players in the NHL.
International Scouting Services (Ranked No. 6 overall)
"Not only is Nurse an excellent 1 on 1 defender but he adds an intense mean streak to put fear in the opposition. He shows no hesitation in doing what it takes to win from blocking shots to dropping the mitts, Darnell was born to lead. Offensively he brings an arsenal of weapons whether it's using his vision to find his man up ice or jumping up into the rush he continues to develop in these areas. He shows excellent mobility on the point and has great quickness for his size which makes him very effective in PP situations. He has a heavy shot but could stand to use it more often. Has all the tools to be a franchise defender and captain down the road."