The Edmonton Oilers prospect machine is activated, once again. Darnell Nurse is joining the ranks of pro hockey for good it seems as he has signed an entry level deal with the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, for their playoff series against the Utica Comets.
Nurse was the Oilers seventh overall pick in 2013 and has been playing in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds (juniors). It has been a very busy year for the top prospect, who also played in two NHL games and was in training camp for the Oilers.
The 33 points in 36 games made for a terrific year for Nurse in juniors, and now he has a chance to lead a playoff campaign. The point was third on the Greyhounds roster for a defenseman. In 221 career games in the OHL, Nurse scored 134 points, 36 of them goals.
One thing about Nurse’s playing style is that he should adjust to the pro game rather quickly. At 6’4 and 205, he won’t be overmatched despite being just 20 years old.
Nurse led Canada to a gold medal at the World Juniors as well, so he’s no stranger to pressure situations. The Greyhounds were just eliminated from the playoffs, opening the door for him to help the Barons. He has played in Oklahoma City before, in 2013-2014, where he played in four games and added one assist. He also played in three AHL playoff games with the Barons before, so this is not new territory for the top prospect. In his three AHL career playoff contests, Nurse has one assist and also seven penalty minutes.
The Barons (who are playing their last ever season in Oklahoma City before moving to Bakersfield) are facing Utica, the top ranked team in the western conference. The Comets are the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, a conference rival for the Oilers in the NHL, so this series will be a terrific opportunity to see the next stars of this rivalry. The series will open up with game one being played at Utica, New York.
Nurse is expected to compete for a job on the Oilers roster next season. After winning the NHL draft lottery to earn the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, the Oilers will more than likely be adding Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid. Their collection of young players could include McDavid, Nurse, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.