Draft Preview: Darnell Nurse

Other than the fact that he's big, NHL scouts agree on virtually nothing about prospect Darnell Nurse.

Darnell Nurse

Defenseman, Saule Ste. Marie Greyhounds
6’5″, 200 lbs
Born: February 4, 1995 – Hamilton, Ontario

For the most part, no one knows what to make of Darnell Nurse. The only given is that he’s a talented defenseman. On the other hand, scouts are divided across the board on him. One scout claims, “I’d take him in my top 5,” while another claims, “He’s out of my first round.” He’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an 18-year-old Canadian defenseman.

Nurse just completed his second year of Major Junior with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Offensively, Nurse’s numbers made a huge swing from his first year in the OHL to his second. The Greyhounds defender scored just 10 points (1 G – 9 A) in 53 games during his initial campaign. This season, however, he turned up the heat and found his offensive touch, scoring 41 points (12 G – 29 A) in 68 games, plus another 4 (1 G – 3 A) in Sault Ste. Marie’s brief 6-game OHL playoff run.

The International Scouting Service grades Nurse’s physical play, as well as his size and strength, as “Excellent”, while giving him “Very Good” ratings in his skating, puck skills, offensive and defensive play, competitiveness and hockey sense. They also name him as one of the toughest players in this draft class. His skill as a defender is virtually unquestioned by the scouts. Per Future Considerations, “Nurse has the top natural athletic ability in this draft crop and we could be witnessing the humble beginnings of a perennial all-star at the next level.” Nurse’s natural athletic ability is evidenced by the fact that his father, Richard, played wide receiver in the CFL, his sister, Tamika, played college basketball at Oregon before transferring to Bowling Green, and – while not a blood relative – his uncle Donovan McNabb is a retired 6-time Pro Bowl selection. He is a smooth skater who is rarely out of position and is almost impossible to beat on a 1-on-1…and, as is mentioned numerous times in virtually every scouting report, he is huge and not remotely afraid to drop the gloves. Nurse registered 116 penalty minutes in just 68 games this season, dropping the gloves 6 times.

The biggest knock on Nurse, besides not knowing exactly what his offensive upside is, is that he’s skinny. A common problem among young draft prospects, Nurse needs to “bulk up” before he is ready to join the NHL. While he is tall and strong, he still needs to add some muscle to keep from being pushed around by the big boys.

While some scouts believe that Nurse’s season this year showed the signs of a blossoming two-way game, others are not so sure. So while, Nurse’s full NHL potential might not be as an offensive defenseman, he certainly has the tools to make a living as a solid shutdown blueliner.

Service Rank
NHL Central Scouting 4th (North American)
ISS 6th
The Hockey News 8th
Future Considerations 7th
McKeen’s Hockey 8th


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Photo Credit: James Egan Photography

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.