No one expected him to make the team. Few people expected him to remain for the full duration of his first National Hockey League training camp. For Darnell Nurse, his accomplishment is mired in disappointment, but certainly not regret.
“If anyone tells you it feels good to get cut, they’re probably lying to you,” expressed an emotional Nurse.
At just eighteen years old, the young defenseman is mature beyond his years. The blue-chip prospect had never been cut by a hockey team in his entire life. After being informed by the Edmonton Oilers coaching staff that he was being sent back to his junior club, Nurse showed a lot of character by exiting the dressing room to face the music and speak with members of the assembled media.
“It sucks,” he voiced bluntly. “There’s nothing fun about it, but [the Oilers] have the best plan for me and my development, and I’m going to go back and dominate my league, and, hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to play in World Juniors.”
The Hamilton, Ontario-native will be reunited with his Ontario Hockey League club, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Even coming off a season in which he recorded 41 points in 68 games played, the 6’4” blueliner knows that there is no shame in returning to the OHL to continue to develop his game and add more bulk to his 193 lb. frame.
I doubt that either of these will be a problem for Nurse. As young as he is, he’s an incredibly motivated person who has already put on nearly ten pounds since draft day. Drafted seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Nurse spoke with poise and purpose about his goals and work ethic, vowing to spend the day after he was drafted in the gym.
“[Nurse is a] goal-oriented guy, determined. He understands what’s ahead of him and he’s going to work hard,” said the excited McNabb. “It’s about putting that extra time in and he understands that. He’s learned that at a young age, and what [the Oilers are] going to get is a leader, a guy with good character.”
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins would likely echo that sentiment, expressing earlier in training camp that the rookie was making it hard on the coaching staff to keep him off of the roster. Nurse was aware of the dilemma he was orchestrating for Eakins and his staff, knowing that he gave it his all in his first pro camp.
“I have no regrets on what I did out there on the ice. I gave it everything I had… I’m happy with the way I played. It’s never fun to get cut, but you learn from it. It’s not a great feeling but, like I said, it’s the best plan for me and my development and years down the road I am sure I’ll thank them.”
Just as realistic as Nurse’s premonition, I’d say years down the road the Oilers and their fans will be thanking Nurse. The talented Edmonton lineup is littered with young forwards. In fact, the Oil hadn’t selected a defenseman as their first pick since the 1989 draft. Nurse would’ve been a great selection for any organization, but appears to be an especially good fit when it soon becomes time to be blended in into this Oilers lineup.
“I came in as prepared as I knew I was going to be,” said Nurse, the son of former wide receiver Richard Nurse of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “I think that I was really fuelled by the fact that so many people said that I wasn’t good enough to keep up with this level. I think I proved a few people wrong over the course of this camp.”
Darnell Nurse will continue to prove people wrong over the course of his career.