Darnell Nurse, the 20 year old defenseman prospect for the Edmonton Oilers, has been about as highly touted as prospects come. He was a seventh round pick and the Oilers have high hopes for him.
However, he might not make their roster this season, and that is because of another young and impressive defenseman in Griffin Reinhart.
Reinhart was acquired from the New York Islanders on the day of the 2015 NHL draft in exchange for a first and second round draft pick. Now he and Nurse, a home grown and developed talent, are duking it out to make the final defensive spot on the Oilers roster.
Reinhart played most of last season in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, so he has experience playing in the professional ranks. He didn’t make the Islanders deep rosters over the past two seasons, but now he has an opportunity to show what he can do with the Oilers.
His only barrier is Nurse.
Nurse does have some AHL experience as well, but it is rather limited. He played in four American Hockey League post season games with the Oklahoma City Barons until their Calder Cup chase came to a close.
“He’s [Nurse] so strong, he defends so well.” said Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli on TSN recently, and this quote was highlighted in the Vancouver Sun. “He’s anxious. He’s a very energetic player so we have to teach him, like you don’t have to do six things, if you can do three of those things really well, you can do the other three later and be good at them. But let’s take steps. So he’s got some stuff to learn but there’s a lot to like there.”
The thing to keep in mind with Nurse is that now that he is 20 years old he could start in the AHL and be called up and down as many times as the Oilers choose. They don’t have to worry about sending him back to juniors. The same is true of Reinhart, of course, but they may elect to go with the more experienced Reinhart to start the season, at least.
One way or another, Nurse should have an impact on the Oilers roster at some point this season. If that’s not at that’s not at the start, he should still be given a chance to show his skills as the year wears on.