The Edmonton Oilers have lots of young guns. Now they have someone to ride shotgun over that young talent.
The Oilers opted for size and attitude in taking Sault Ste. Marie defenceman Darnell Nurse seventh overall in Sunday’s NHL draft.
“I really believe that this guy’s going to have an incredible impact on our team,” GM Craig MacTavish said.
MacTavish tried hard to swing a deal but failed other than rearranging some lower-round picks. The Oilers left the Prudential Center with 10 drafted players, but no one by trade.
“My deal rate per spoken word is extremely low right now,” said the GM, who says he will continue talks with other teams in a bid to improve the Oilers.
Still he emerged content with what Nurse gives a young, talented squad that features first-rounders Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle.
“He really gives us an element that I feel we’re sorely lacking,” said MacTavish. “He’s a guy that over time — we’ll be patient with him — is going to provide us with the toughness. And he’s the guy that will ride shotgun for a lot of our first overall picks, our skilled players, for a lot of years.”
The son of former CFL wide receiver Richard Nurse and nephew of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, Nurse is six foot three and working hard to push his weight over 200 pounds.
Nurse was the second defenceman drafted, behind Seth Jones who went fourth overall to the Nashville Predators.
The 18-year-old from Hamilton is a prickly player who refuses to back down.
“I think I have a little bit of jam in my game,” he said. “I’ve always had it. Like I said, it’s better to give than receive. It creates a lot more room for yourself in the corners. Obviously with that said I’m going to get challenged based on the way I play, but I’ve never been scared to step up.”
Nurse had 12 goals and 29 assists for the Ontario Hockey League’s Greyhounds. He also had six fights.
“I wish I could describe how excited I am, especially when you watch these guys on TV and see how gifted they are and how much of an impact they have,” said Nurse after being taken seventh overall. “For me this is a dream come true. I’m just going to work so that one day hopefully I have the opportunity to play alongside them.”
Edmonton had also been looking at winger Valeri Nichushkin, but opted for Nurse. Nichushkin went three picks later to Dallas.
“It came right down to the draft floor,” MacTavish said of the decision between the two.
The Oilers traded their second-round pick (37th overall) to the Los Angeles Kings for a second-round pick (57th), third-round pick (88th) and fourth-round pick (96th).
With the 56th pick, obtained earlier from Anaheim, the Oilers chose Blainville-Boisbriand centre/right-winger Marc-Olivier Roy.
The six-foot, 175-pound Roy was delighted to join the promising crew of young Oilers, confessing he follows many of Edmonton’s players via Twitter.
“A lot of young players, superstars,” he said, calling Nugent-Hopkins one of his favourite players.
He said he prided himself as a well-rounded player who can play in all situations.
Edmonton then traded the 57th pick to St. Louis for picks in the third round (No. 83), fourth (No. 94 and 113).
The third round produced Russian forwards Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev, followed by Vancouver Giants winger Jackson Houck, London Knights centre Kyle Platzer and Victoria midget forward Aidan Muir in the fourth.
Winger Evan Campbell of Langley of the BCHL was taken in the fifth round, followed by Everett Silvertips defenceman Ben Betker in the sixth. The seventh round offered up forward Gregory Chase of the Calgary Hitmen.
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