Player: Darnell Nurse
Drafted By: Edmonton Oilers (7th overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 4 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'3'', 185 lbs
DOB: February 4, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: OHL, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Darnell Nurse joined a rebuilding Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the 2011-12 season and pitched in the best he could on a low-caliber team. He played in 53 games for the Greyhounds, posting 10 points to go along with a minus-15 rating.
Since the beginning of the year though, Nurse has been a steady climber in the Central Scouting rankings. At the midterm of this season, he was ranked as the ninth-best available North American skater. He finished fourth overall, based largely on a remarkably strong second half from Nurse and the Greyhounds.
Full Scouting Report
While Seth Jones is widely considered the best defenseman available in 2013 because of his offensive upside, many scouts feel that Nurse is the best defender when it comes to playing in his own zone. He hasn't always played with an edge, but recently, he's emerged as a tenacious and physical defender who is willing to take the body whenever given the chance.
He's improved his passing and rushing game greatly over the last year—if he hadn't, it's likely that Nurse would have slipped out of the first round completely. His 41 points in 68 games in 2013 is a testament to just how much his offensive game improved over the last season.
The lanky defender is also an outstanding penalty killer and has shown a tendency to be at his best when he's playing loads of minutes. He stays engaged and doesn't lose focus while playing a massive amount of minutes, showing a strong mental fortitude while playing the game.
Nurse is a bit of a project, but he shows outstanding instincts in all three zones and his developing offensive game makes him an outstanding selection.
NHL Player Comparison
Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nurse's edge and offensive striking ability remind us a lot of the captain of the Leafs.
Smashing heads with the OHL's biggest players and trying to run the NHL's top power forwards off the puck are two totally different things, so the 2014-2015 season seems like a reasonable projection. Before playing his brand of physical, smashmouth hockey in the pros, Nurse needs to add some muscle and weight.
By 20, he should have enough meat on his bones to start throwing his weight around against a charging Evgeni Malkin.
Nurse is arguably the second-best defenseman available in the draft, so anything less than a top-pairing job for the tenacious blueliner would be considered a disappointment. It may take him some time to get there, but he's the mean, versatile defender that every team covets.
He's already an outstanding penalty killer as well, which should make him a serious candidate for a role as a minute-munching No. 1 defenseman in the NHL someday.