RALEIGH, N.C. – Several acquisitions at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft were intended to bring the Carolina Hurricanes closer to elite status. Despite adding some firepower, the club already had a relatively weak defenseman corps and faced injuries to key defensive players limiting goaltender Cam Ward to 17 games and defenseman Joni Pitkanen to 22 games. The club regressed during the 2013 season and failed to make the playoffs under second-year coach Kirk Muller.
Now, the Hurricanes are looking to build a strong defense, one with long-term strength at the heart of the effort. They may find an anchor in Darnell Nurse, the fourth overall ranked North American skater by Central Scouting Services and the second highest ranked defenseman in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. With the fifth pick in this summers’ event, Carolina may be able to get their man if he is still available.
The 6’ 5”, 192 pound, left-handed defenseman from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is the son of Richard Nurse, a former CFL receiver and nephew by marriage to former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb. Nurse serves as an associate captain of the Greyhounds and has focused on intensive training and staying physically fit, qualities which continue to increase his stock leading up to the draft.
The Hamilton, Ontario-native is an excellent skater who possesses a nasty edge to his game. He has been playing more physical in recent years and although he may from time-to-time get too overzealous, he can skate and move the puck very well. Not only has he been compared to Chris Pronger and Shea Webber, and plays like both.
This past season Nurse played in all 68 games for the Greyhounds notching 12 goals, 41 points and a solid +15 rating. He added 116 penalty minutes including six bouts. This is significant improvement from the results Nurse delivered during the 2011-12 season where in 53 games, he added only one goal and ten points with a -15 rating and 61 penalty minutes.
While Nurse will not contribute for several years after the draft, a foundation needs to be laid in order to prepare a sturdy Carolina defense. The rugged defenseman could serve as that foundation as the Hurricanes need to start their rebuild on the backline somewhere. Nurse represents the best first step.
“With the 5th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Carolina Hurricanes select, from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Darnell Nurse.”