Sportsnet.ca is previewing the top 30 prospects in the 30 days leading up to the National Hockey League draft in New Jersey on June 30.
The seventh player in our countdown is the quick-rising defender from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Darnell Nurse.
Stats: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) | 68 GP | 12 G | 29 A | 41 P | +15 | 116 PIM
Who is Darnell Nurse?
Nurse comes from a football family as his dad, Richard, is a former wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His uncle is former National Football League quarterback Donovan McNabb. His mother and two sisters have also played basketball competitively in university, college and international stages.
Nurse was the third-overall pick in the 2011 Ontario Hockey League priority selection by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He captured bronze-medals on Team Ontario’s 2012 world under-17 hockey challenge roster and on Canada’s 2012 under-18 world championship team. He won a gold medal on Canada’s 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial under-18 roster and would have been a big part of their 2013 under-18 world championship squad, if not for an injury. Nurse was also the recipient of the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL’s scholastic player of the year in 2012-2013.
Darnell Nurse’s scouting report:
Nurse has great size at six-foot-four and 185 pounds with great mobility. His offensive game really took off in his second season, improving from his 10-point rookie season to 41 points as a sophomore. Nurse’s confidence grew in his ability to rush the puck up ice, though despite the numbers, he’s not a natural point producer. He plays a sound, calculated defensive game thanks to his long wingspan and competitiveness. Nurse should develop into a stud shutdown defender.
Teams who might be interested in Darnell Nurse:
Nurse’s mammoth potential as a defensive defenceman will be appealing to many teams in the draft. Among those should be the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers, who could all use some defensive depth among their prospects.
“Nurse is a highly-athletic player,” says David Burstyn, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey. “He sometimes gets a little overzealous in his own zone, but I think that type of enthusiasm can also be viewed as a strength. He’s the master of the poke check and he gets into good positions. Sometimes he likes to rush the puck up a little bit too much and he has to learn to make a better first pass and move into the holes. Nurse has such a good frame. Once he gains a little bit more weight, he’s going to be one of those great matchup defencemen that can play a good two-way game. I think the strength of his game at a pro level is going to be more shutting down and neutralizing opposing top forwards.”
“Some people think there is a big gap between Seth Jones and the next best defenceman in the draft – I’m not one of those people,” affirms Ross MacLean, head scout for International Scouting Services. “Nurse isn’t quite as elite or poised as Jones, but can still be an explosive offensive player with strong defensive capabilities, but adds an element of toughness and fire that isn’t present in Jones’ game. What I really like about Nurse is that he is still fairly raw and has a ton of development that can still occur. He’s an athletic and confident character who can do a bit of everything. He moves well and can be very dynamic. His style and demeanor project very well at the next level, but there will be concerns about his durability and ability to be as imposing at the next level if he can’t continue to develop.”