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Draft Profile: Darnell Nurse

Thursday, 06.27.2013 / 9:00 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Draft Profile: Darnell Nurse
Each weekday leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft on June 30, CarolinaHurricanes.com will profile one player we believe might be available for Carolina’s fifth pick. Previous Profiles: Valeri Nichushkin | Sean Monahan | Nathan MacKinnon | Elias Lindholm | Seth Jones | Jonathan Drouin | Max Domi | Aleksander Barkov | Related Links: 2013 NHL Draft Preview | Hurricanes Draft History




When assessing top defensemen available in the 2013 NHL Draft, most consider Seth Jones, an NHL-ready player, to be in a class of his own. Darnell Nurse, one of a few in a still rather talented second tier, might be rawer, but he has the makings of a future shutdown defenseman.

Michael Smith
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Just look at him.

Nurse is a 6-foot-4 Canadian-born blueliner. Weighing in at 185 pounds, he still has some room to fill out his burly frame, but he already packs a snarling physical punch to his game.

“He’s a big man and a tremendous skater,” said Tony MacDonald, the Canes head of amateur scouting. “For some people, expectations are higher because of his size and skating.”

Nurse also has an impressive catalog of athletic kinfolk, most notably former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is his uncle by marriage. Nurse’s father, Richard, was a wide receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, and his mother, Cathy, played basketball with the McCaster Marauders. His older sister, Tamika, played basketball at Oregon and Bowling Green, and his younger sister, Kia, has represented Ontario and Canada in basketball. Nurse’s aunt, Raquel, was a star point guard with the Syracuse basketball team.

DARNELL NURSE
DEFENSEMAN
HOMETOWN: HAMILTON, ONTARIO
HEIGHT: 6-4
WEIGHT: 185
BIRTHDAY: FEB. 4, 1995 (AGE 18)

While his defensive play – buoyed by his ranginess and physicality – is his most striking asset, Nurse’s offensive game progressed in his second season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.

In 2011-12, Nurse recorded 10 points (1g, 9a) and was a minus-15 in 53 games. He increased his offensive production fourfold in 2012-13, posting 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points, third-best among Sault Ste. Marie defensemen. His plus-15 rating ranked second on the team.

Nurse continued to produce offensively in the playoffs, recording four points (1g, 3a) in six first-round games.

Still, Nurse might not project as a reliable point producer in the NHL. It’s his imposing size and calculated defensive abilities that impress scouts the most.

“He has great size and great tools,” MacDonald said. “I hesitate to say he’s still a work in progress, but he’s still building his game and getting better. His game is not yet complete, so maybe that’s the reason why some view him differently.”

The 18-year-old defenseman leapfrogged Sean Monahan to become the OHL’s top-ranked prospect in the NHL’s Central Scouting’s final report; Nurse is the fourth-ranked North American skater, an uptick of five positions from midterms.

“Central Scouting certainly recognized his potential,” MacDonald said. “Sometimes our perception of players from one scout to another is different.”

Some mock drafts have Nurse off the board as high as Carolina’s fifth selection, and in others, he falls out of the top 10. Many peg him somewhere in between.

“He has the tool and the physical attributes to be a top 10 pick, certainly,” MacDonald said.



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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62