Edmonton Oilers: Darnell Nurse Rising as Core Defenceman

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Darnell Nurse. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 19: Darnell Nurse. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Edmonton Oilers blueliner Darnell Nurse is still trying to make the jump to a promotion on the Oilers defence. Thankfully for him, he’s making a case to stay on for years to come as a core member of the team’s D-Corps.

The 22-year-old is already becoming a fan favorite in Edmonton and has a bright future ahead of him. Nurse was taken seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and made his rookie debut with the Oilers two seasons ago. Since then, he has only gotten better.

Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers /

Edmonton Oilers

Nurse struggled in his first NHL season, posting three goals and 10 points through 62 games in 2015-16. He was a lacklustre minus-13, and his relative Corsi was unimpressive at a -5.8. Though he showed off his physicality and hard-hitting ability, he didn’t take the best care of the puck or do a good job of taking control and getting the puck up the ice. This season, he made sure to improve on his mistakes.

He was limited to 44 regular season games due to an ankle injury, but still managed five goals and 11 points, as well as a plus-minus of 0. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound blueliner also racked up 107 hits and 53 blocks and limited himself to just 36 giveaways, seven less than he had in his freshman season. In the postseason, Nurse impressed with two assists and 36 hits through 13 playoff games and appeared solid for the most part.

Is Nurse Part of the Oilers Core?

While Nurse is surely part of the Oilers’ future blue line, there are areas of his game he will have to clean up if he wants to become a top-four defenceman and a key member of the team’s d-corps.

First off, while he is solid physically, he needs to make sure his hits don’t land him into trouble in his own zone. He is an outstanding skater and very sound on the ice but may try to take a risk and throw hits that he will miss. Nurse also needs to work on his positioning so that he can better stack up against his opponents, especially considering his frame.

In addition, while Nurse can drop the gloves, his penalties can land his team in trouble. Nurse had 1penaltieses last season, and nine of them were minor penalties. Ultimately, he had 33 PIM through 44 games, which probably didn’t help his team out.

Nurse could also stand to move the puck a bit more and work on his offence. It is not necessary to be a power-play quarterback to have a successful NHL career. However, Nurse has a booming point shot and could stand to add more edge on the forecheck to his game. This also increases his value to the team.

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Overall, Nurse is a solid defenceman who can skate well and certainly has a lot to look forward to with the Oilers organization. However, there are some parts of his game that need to develop more as he looks to slot in as a core defenceman on the team.