For the first time in long time, the Oilers first-round draft choice didn't have any associated drama or controversy mainly due to the lack of hype and build-up that goes along with having the first overall choice in the draft - a Steve Tambellini specialty. Of course, this was a different sort of draft - it wasn't nearly as weak as the class from 2011, had far more depth than the 2010 class, and wasn't top-heavy on defense like the 2012 draft. Prior to the draft, the conversation centered around the four players likely to be available for the Oilers at selction #7: Valeri Nichushkin, Sean Monahan, Darnell Nurse and Rasmus Ristolainen.
Calgary snapped up Sean Monahan and the Oilers were left with a conundrum - take the big wing (Nichushkin) with all of the physical skills and projected numbers, or grab one of the two near-ready top-pairing defenders. If I were in Craig MacTavish's shoes, I probably lean towards Nichushkin, but in the end have no issues with the Darnell Nurse selection. We've quoted various scouting services here since the draft, but I had a chance to talk to three scouts about Nurse and where he fits in comparison to the defensemen selected in the top 10 since 2010. The answers were surprising:
Scout #1, an NHL amateur scout: "I'd rate him just behind Murray, but ahead of Larsson and Gudbranson."
Scout #2, an OHL scout: "He's a top 5 pick in 2010, and the second defenseman taken in 2011 and 2012."
Scout #3, an NHL amateur scout: "He's the best defenseman in the draft in 2010, equal to Larsson and very close to Murray, though not nearly as polished in his own end as Murray."
If Nurse is better than or equal to all of the defensemen taken at the top of the draft over the last three years (Erik Gudbranson, Adam Larsson, Ryan Murray), the Oilers have landed a wonderful talent. Valeri Nichushkin might become the next Shane Doan, but the Oilers have an outstanding consolation prize.