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Darnell Nurse comes from great athletic bloodlines, although they are a little different from what you would expect. The Hamilton, Ontario native is the nephew (by marriage) of former NFL Quarterback Donovan McNabb. His father, Richard Nurse was a a Wide Receiver for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL. His mother, Cathy, was a CIS (then CIAU) basketball player; and his sister, Tamika played NCAA collegiate hoops at Oregon and Bowling Green. His younger sister, Kia, is also an excellent basketball player and on Canada’s Under 15 Women’s Team. His Aunt, Raquel (McNabb’s wife) was an NCAA basketball star, a former player of the year, and three time Big East All-Star. Nurse hasn’t had to look far for high level athletic role models in his life, and their influence has helped him develop as an athlete both on and off the ice.
Nurse is a natural leader, named an alternate captain on his Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds team at just 17 years old. He came into the season as a late first round prospect on most draft boards, but has greatly risen up the ranks. Nurse was seen as a big, physical, defensive defenceman before this season, however his offensive game was questioned. This season he’s answered those questions, and passed the tests with flying colors, flourishing as a point producer from the blueline and combining with Detroit Red Wings’ prospect Ryan Sproul to give the Greyhounds a fantastic one-two punch from the blueline.
Nurse also has international experience, winning a bronze medal with Team Ontario’s Under 17 team in 2012; playing for Canada’s squad at the 2012 IIHF World Championships; and winning gold with Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament, playing on the squad’s number one shut down pairing.
Born — Hamilton, ONT
Height 6.05 — Weight 192 — Shoots Left
February Rank: 15
As mentionned, Nurse’s offensive game has really blossomed this season. He showed off his big time point shot and one timer, scoring 12 goals in 69 games. Nurse became really effective at keeping his shot low, getting it through and on net, and generating opportunities for rebounds and tip-ins in front of the net. He also effectively utilizes a good wrist shot and release when he doesn’t have time to load up the slapshot. Nurse has also improved his puckhandling skills, and shows more poise and patience in controlling the play at the blueline. He walks the line well, and uses his lateral mobility to open up shooting and passing lanes. With good vision, and improving passing skills, he is developping his ability as a powerplay quarterback, but at this point he is more of a trigger man, than a guy who controls the play at the blueline. With Sproul leaving the Greyhounds next season, Nurse may be asked to transition into that quarterback role as he’ll be the primary threat at the back end.
A fantastic natural athlete, Nurse’s skating is elite given his size. He has excellent edgework, pivots, and agility. This allows him to transition quickly and cover all areas fo the ice. He can change direction very quickly, allowing him to close space in an instant, and throw big hits. He has good speed moving forward and backwards, and an above average first step and acceleration.
Nurse has terrific size and uses it effectively in his own end. He’s a big hitter who can strike fear into opposing players as they come down his end of the ice. He wins board battles and effectively leans on opposing players and clears the front of the net. His mobility makes him very difficult to beat one on one off the rush. He uses his size and an active stick to cut down passing lanes, and willingly sacrifices his body blocking shots. Nurse has been seen as a shutdown defence prospect and has continued to improve this aspect of his game. Going forward, he can stand to bulk up and add muscle to his frame, allowing him to be even more effective physically.
Nurse’s style is reminiscent of Dion Phaneuf, and his ability to play big minutes, and provide a very physical game defensively along with a good point shot on the powerplay. Once again this is a stylistic comparison and not one of potential. Potential wise, Nurse’s development in the last year has been excellent, and if he continues at that same level, he can be a #1 defender at the NHL level, capable of playing all situations and being a team leader.
Check back tomorrow for our number 11 prospect.
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