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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 - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 70 21 28 -12 49
J. Faulk 75 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 74 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 70 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 73 11 20 -12 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 71 8 17 -13 25
J. McClement 75 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 47 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 39 4 16 -7 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 6 .904 2.60