While many Devils fans feel the team needs to take a forward in the first round of the NHL Draft this year, it is necessary to look at defensive prospects, as well. There are some options that may be taken in the early stages of the first round including the projected number one pick, Seth Jones. Coming in just a few spots behind him, Darnell Nurse is ranked as the fourth North American skater. He is a player with an interesting background and family, and he has an exciting resume worth looking into. In this profile, I will be looking at what Nurse has accomplished in his career so far and what he could bring the to the Devils if he is the pick at number nine.
Who is Darnell Nurse?
As noted above, Darnell Nurse is the second highest ranked defensemen in the 2013 NHL Draft. The Hamilton, Ontario native has athletics in his blood. He comes from a family with quite a few sports stars. His father, Richard Nurse is a receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL and his aunt played basketball at Syracuse. His mother and sisters were involved in basketball and other sports, as well. Perhaps the most famous athlete in his family is his uncle. You may have heard of him - the NFL star by the name of Donovan McNabb. Nurse has trained with the ex-quarterback during the summers and has learned a lot from him. This can give a small sample size to the potential he can have as a player after growing up around such talent.]At 6' 5" and 192 pounds, the 18-year-old Nurse worked on upping his game for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds from last season. In 2011-2012, Nurse was benched a lot in the early season. He used the experience as motivation and work harder, earning him 68 games played, 12 goals, 29 assists, and 116 penalty minutes in the 2012-2013 season. Nurse, and alternate captain for the team, was the only Greyhound to play in all 68 games last season. He was also given the opportunity to play along side Minnesota's seventh overall pick from the draft last year, Mathew Dumba on the blue line. Nurse was a big part of getting the Greyhounds to the OHL playoffs for the first time in three years, and although they were knocked out in six games, he had one goal and three assists with six penalty minutes. Nurse also participated in the 2013 U18 World Junior Championships for Canada as an alternate captain.
In his second season in the OHL, Nurse has taken on a huge role with the Greyhounds. He was playing upwards of 30 minutes a night while bringing up his point total and improving his plus-minus rating. His coach, Mike Stapleton says his growth in coordination and mobility are just as impressive as his size and physicality. He sees potential as both an offensive defenseman and a stay-at-home guy.
Nurse's goal is to be a difficult player to play against. He has a serious physical edge to his game and he uses that to his advantage. On the down side, it is noted that he needs to work on his shot and hockey sense. He has been working to get more consistency on his shot, first and foremost. He has been using Ryan Sproul (Detroit) and Colin Miller (Los Angeles) as examples on the ice in order to get on the right track. While he is working on the areas that need improvement, he looks at being tough to play against as the key to him winning battles in his own end.
What experts have said about Darnell Nurse:
While he may not be a hockey expert, his Uncle McNabb has been interviewed quite a bit about his nephew's potential. Donovan had a big hand in teaching Nurse a proper work ethic and taught him the importance of physical training outside of hockey. In an interview with NHL.com, McNabb said,
"[Darnell's] the guy that's willing to do whatever it takes in order to be the best. He has a chip on his shoulder all the time. I've always tried to instill in him great work ethic and to have pride and passion in everything you set out to do. He continues to work hard, to be determined to be No. 1 at all times. It's also important for him to understand that there's nothing wrong with failing because you learn from your mistakes. It only makes you stronger mentally. It will better you in the future."
Midway through the 2012-2013, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News compared Nurse to Chris Pronger, though Darnell likes to model his play after Shea Weber because of his two-way play and ability to control the pace of a game. Kennedy wrote,
"As a rookie, Nurse saw a lot of pine early in the Soo, which was fine with him because it gave him a chance to learn and fed his hunger to get better. Whereas last season he tallied just one goal and often played conservatively, this year he's picking his spots offensively and has lit the lamp 10 times."
In the final Mock-Draft on NHL.com, Mike Morreale had Nurse going sixth to the Flames and said,
"Has had a steady climb up the Central Scouting rankings; defends well, plays with an edge and is good off transition"
"He comes to the rink every day ready. He's like a sponge. He wants to learn and work on stuff. He understands what it's going to take to get himself to the next level... He has the potential to be an offensive defenseman but he's also got great potential to be a stay-at-home, shutdown defenseman who plays with size and grit"
What does Nurse say about his game and the draft? While he is extremely proud of what he has accomplished so far, he isn't done and is staying very calm about the draft. In an interview with Scott Radley, Nurse said,
"If you ask anyone who's a competitor and wants to win, it's always the goal to be near the top... I'm just hoping I get taken by someone who wants me."
Here are a few videos that look at what Nurse has to offer. First is a draft profile from NHL.com:
Here is a look at what Nurse has to offer in a more physical sense. It's a fight from February of 2013:
Darnell Nurse vs Scott Sabourin (via JimKorn20)
My thoughts on Nurse:
I am one who thinks the Devils need to draft a forward in the first round, but if they went with a defensemen, Nurse is the way to go. He has a tough edge to him, but is also responsible on the ice. While the Devils have a plethora of NHL defensemen, potential NHL defensemen, and questionable defenseman, having a player like Nurse in the system couldn't hurt. It's also nice to see a guy that could turn into an offensive-defenseman. The Devils haven't had a d-man rack up the points in a while, and that's always a nice bonus - if they can do the job in their own end, as well.
My favorite thing about Nurse is his attitude. I think he has a great way of looking at his game to succeed in the NHL. He understands where he needs to improve, but refuses to let the aspects of his game in which he succeeds sag. I appreciate any prospect that realizes there is always room to improve and doesn't let his ego get in the way.
Is Darnell Nurse the right pick for New Jersey at pick number nine? I truly think the Devils need to pick a forward, but there are situations in which picking a defenseman would be appropriate. If he is the best player available, Nurse may be the way to go. Personally, I would pick the previous draft prospects profiled (Sean Monahan and Elias Linholm) before Nurse, and I do think there are teams picking before the Devils who need a defender more. I would not be disappointed with Nurse as a player, but because of his position, I don't think he fits the biggest hole the Devils have right now.
With everything said about Nurse, what do you think? Would you like the Devils to select him with their ninth pick in the draft? What do you like about his game? What don't you like? If anyone has had the chance to see him play or has any extra information on him, please share it in the comment section below. Also, please feel free to discuss your thoughts on Nurse. Thanks for reading!