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Oilers Select Darnell Nurse at #7 Overall

The Oilers end up holding on to their much discussed first round selection and take a big Blueliner over a Big Russian

Rich Schultz

The Edmonton Oilers have selected Darnell Nurse.

Quickly before getting to that, there are a few trade items that involved the Oilers that are shaking themselves out a we progress through the first round here.

Cal Clutterbuck has been traded to the New York Islanders and in a move that rocked the draft floor, the New Jersey Devils traded the #9 pick for Corey Schneider.

Now, on to Nurse.

It's a bit unfortunate for this player off the start because there is a feeling of disappointment among many Oiler fans right off the start and bad first impressions are tough to overcome. After a worst case scenario for the Oilers played out in the first six picks with all four centres (MacKinnon, Barkov, Lindholm and Monahan) being off the board before number 7 arrived, the Oilers were left with the choice between Nurse and Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin. With the Oilers needing size in their forward group and Nichushkin being considered far closer to NHL ready, many, including Oiler-paid reporters Dan Tencer and Bob Stauffer thought the team was about to select Nichushkin, but GM Craig MacTavish called our Nurse's name, in a somewhat surprising move.

As for what Nurse brings, here is Scott Reynolds' "Comparables" post on him, and here is what Corey Pronman wrote about him in Hockey Prospectus:

Nurse had a considerable amount of hype at the beginning of the season, and he has exceeded all expectations. He is a gifted physical player who has all the natural tools a scout could want from a defenseman. He has slowly begun to emerge as a two-way player, but his value comes from his high-end work in his own end. Nurse is a tall defender with an aggressive edge and the strength to consistently push his checks off pucks. He has above-average mobility, especially considering his larger size. With his wingspan, he is able to make a multitude of plays in the defensive end. 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.

The bottom line for me is that Nurse has a lot of potential, but I see him as less likely to fulfill that potential than some other options the Oilers had available. If he develops into tough minutes blue-liner with a physical edge, it will be a nice piece for the Oilers even if it takes a few years for him to get there. If he has difficulty adapting to to the pro game, he could be the next in a line of failed big, physical, former first-round blueliners like Alex Plante and Colten Teubert. Scott Reynolds' piece compares him potentially to Luke Schenn.

To Nurse's credit, he has more upside than either of those two failed Oiler prospects and deserves an opportunity to prove what he can do. That likely involves at least two seasons outside of the NHL, which I think is the best scenario for him and potentially gives the Oilers a value contract in a couple of years at a point when they are more competitive. It's important for any Oiler fan disappointed with this pick to remember that any attempt to pass judgement on him for at least a year or two is pretty unrealistic.

I was rooting against the option of selecting him, but now that he's an Oiler, I'll be cheering for him to succeed.