Expect More Offense From Darnell Nurse

Now that he's under the bright lights, Nurse is going to shine. - Bruce Bennett

The Oilers' latest draft pick has more to offer on offense

The only other area of concern is regarding what his offensive upside tops out at the next level. Does he become a top PP guy in the NHL or is his projected role limited to becoming a steady defense first guy who can make a strong outlet pass, join the odd rush and consistently shut down the opposition?

--Future Considerations on Darnell Nurse

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.

--Corey Pronman on Darnell Nurse

Nearly every draft guru called Darnell Nurse a "two-way" player and a "physical talent", but almost all of them nicked Nurse for his lack of offensive ability. Compared to the 8 other defensemen taken in the first round, his numbers don't stand out, and trail some of the more offensive players by a wide margin:

Player Num. Drafted By League Team P/G
Seth Jones 4 Nashville WHL Portland 0.918
Ryan Pulock 15 NY Islanders WHL Brandon 0.738
Shea Theodore 26 Anaheim WHL Seattle 0.704
Josh Morrissey 13 Winnipeg WHL Prince Albert 0.671
Darnell Nurse 7 Edmonton OHL Sault Ste. Marie 0.603
Mirco Mueller 18 San Jose WHL Everett 0.492
Rasmus Ristolainen* 8 Buffalo SM-liiga TPS Turku 0.477
Nikita Zadorov 16 Buffalo OHL London 0.397
Samuel Morin 11 Philadelphia QMJHL Rimouski 0.348

*Adjusted to WHL levels

Morin, Zadorov and Mueller weren't drafted for their offense, and Ristolainen's offensive game took off once the lockout ended and Kris Russell, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Alec Martinez left for the NHL. Nurse is really only ahead of the defense-first guys. There's a catch, however:

Kyle Dubas is the General Manager of the Soo Greyhounds, Nurse's OHL team. Vic Carneiro serves as a scout for the team. These two would know about Nurse's utilization.

and

How does Nurse compare on the power play to his fellow first rounders?

Player Num. Drafted By League Team %PP
Shea Theodore 26 Anaheim WHL Seattle 0.540
Ryan Pulock 15 NY Islanders WHL Brandon 0.489
Mirco Mueller 18 San Jose WHL Everett 0.452
Seth Jones 4 Nashville WHL Portland 0.411
Darnell Nurse 7 Edmonton OHL Sault Ste. Marie 0.341
Samuel Morin 11 Philadelphia QMJHL Rimouski 0.313
Rasmus Ristolainen* 8 Buffalo SM-liiga TPS Turku 0.275
Josh Morrissey 13 Winnipeg WHL Prince Albert 0.106
Nikita Zadorov 16 Buffalo OHL London 0.040

Nurse ranks 5th in percentage of offense generated on the power play, with the defense-first crew and Josh Morrissey behind him.

But Carneiro mentions something else: Quality of Competition. We know from Qoc Calculations that Nurse played 25:30 minutes per game (later confirmed as 25:13 by Dubas and Carneiro) and played against the second-toughest competition on the team (again confirmed by Carneiro). How does that stack up against the other first-round defensemen?

Player Num. Drafted By League Team TOI
Darnell Nurse 7 Edmonton OHL Sault Ste. Marie 25.5
Ryan Pulock 15 NY Islanders WHL Brandon 24.2
Seth Jones 4 Nashville WHL Portland 22.6
Josh Morrissey 13 Winnipeg WHL Prince Albert 22.6
Rasmus Ristolainen 8 Buffalo SM-liiga TPS Turku 21.7
Shea Theodore 26 Anaheim WHL Seattle 21.4
Mirco Mueller 18 San Jose WHL Everett 19.7
Nikita Zadorov 16 Buffalo OHL London 18.5
Samuel Morin 11 Philadelphia QMJHL Rimouski 17.2

No one logged more ice time than Nurse. He played on the second power play, the first penalty kill and the top pairing throughout the year. What about competition?

Player Num. Drafted By League Team QoC
Josh Morrissey 13 Winnipeg WHL Prince Albert 1
Mirco Mueller 18 San Jose WHL Everett 1
Darnell Nurse 7 Edmonton OHL Sault Ste. Marie 2
Ryan Pulock 15 NY Islanders WHL Brandon 2
Samuel Morin 11 Philadelphia QMJHL Rimouski 2
Seth Jones 4 Nashville WHL Portland 3
Rasmus Ristolainen* 8 Buffalo SM-liiga TPS Turku 4
Shea Theodore 26 Anaheim WHL Seattle 4
Nikita Zadorov 16 Buffalo OHL London 4

*Not adjusted for league

Nurse played the tough minutes along with Morrissey, Mueller, Pulock and Morin.

What conclusions can we draw from this? First, Nurse is due for a spike in his offensive numbers as he moves to the top power play unit. If he stays on the top PK, however, it will draw away from his even strength time, so his ES offense may dip. Nurse is already playing a ton of minutes, so his TOI isn't going to climb by much, if at all.

Second, if Nurse does see a jump in his offense, say in the range of .75 - .80 points per game, the concerns over offense are going to drop away.

Third, the Winnipeg Jets drafted an outstanding player in Josh Morrissey.

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