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?
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.
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:
|Ryan Pulock||15||NY Islanders||WHL||Brandon||0.738|
|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|
*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.
How does Nurse compare on the power play to his fellow first rounders?
|Ryan Pulock||15||NY Islanders||WHL||Brandon||0.489|
|Mirco Mueller||18||San Jose||WHL||Everett||0.452|
|Darnell Nurse||7||Edmonton||OHL||Sault Ste. Marie||0.341|
|Rasmus Ristolainen*||8||Buffalo||SM-liiga||TPS Turku||0.275|
|Josh Morrissey||13||Winnipeg||WHL||Prince Albert||0.106|
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?
|Darnell Nurse||7||Edmonton||OHL||Sault Ste. Marie||25.5|
|Ryan Pulock||15||NY Islanders||WHL||Brandon||24.2|
|Josh Morrissey||13||Winnipeg||WHL||Prince Albert||22.6|
|Rasmus Ristolainen||8||Buffalo||SM-liiga||TPS Turku||21.7|
|Mirco Mueller||18||San Jose||WHL||Everett||19.7|
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?
|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|
|Rasmus Ristolainen*||8||Buffalo||SM-liiga||TPS Turku||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.