What to do with Darnell?

The hype this summer is all surrounding the future of the Oilers, Connor McDavid, and rightly so. This is wonderful news to all other prospects coming in to training camp because the attention is going to be squarely focused on Connor. This will alleviate some of the stress that will come with trying to impress coaches and management during the young stars tournament and camp. One player that will look to make a big impression and secure a roster spot in his first professional season is Darnell Nurse. What to do with Darnell? That is the question of the day. Our very own Corey Mitchell has a great write-up on Nurse and his potential. If you want to take a look it’s here. He is writing a great series on the Edmonton prospects so be sure to check that out.

There is a lot to like about Darnell. He’s a good two-way defenseman. He’s big and very mobile for a kid his size. He has great positioning and is rarely beaten one on one. He has the ability to join the rush when needed and possesses good offensive instincts. He seems to really enjoy a physical game and brings a noticeable mean streak with him. He’s not afraid to mix it up when needed and is ready to come to the defense of teammates.

The question is what will he be when he reaches his prime? He definitely has the potential to be a true number one defender in the NHL for a long time but who knows when or if that will ever happen. The tea leaves are hard to read but there is some indication that he can get there. The kid is definitely trending in the right direction.

He played huge minutes for his junior team and was vital to the gold medal effort by the World Junior squad this past year. He played 25 minutes a night in all situations and faced the best players that the other teams had. In the playoffs his coach tried to get Darnell on the ice every time that McDavid was out there and he was the only player that seemed to be able to contain him in any way. Now don’t get me wrong Connor still dominated the series but Nurse didn’t look horribly overmatched like the rest of his team.

This coming season coach McLellan will have some very difficult decisions to make before the final cuts are made. Darnell is likely already a better option on the left side than either Nikitin or Ference but the experience factor is not something that I think Todd will easily discount. He will have to be significantly better in camp and the pre-season if he hopes to be on the opening night roster. What to do with Darnell?

In my honest opinion leaving him off the opening night roster isn’t the worst thing in the world and will show that the coaching staff greatly value experience. I think that Todd and company will choose to send Darnell down to Bakersfield to start the season. He will go down to the AHL for a spell and hone his game as a top pairing defender in a very good league.

Just because I think that the kid will start the season on the farm team by no means does that mean that he will finish there. He will likely be the first call up on the left side, and will see significant time in the NHL this season. Mt prediction is that he is on the active roster by the end of November and will then make it impossible for the team to send him back.

Is Darnell destined to be our number one defenseman? Will he start the year in Edmonton or Bakersfield? Time will tell but I want to know what you all think. Come on Beer Leaguers let me hear it. The comments section is just waiting to be blown up with your responses. All we ask is that you keep it in good taste. If the comment section isn’t your thing then you can let me know on Twitter, @cooke_rob, I welcome all to join in the discussion.

On a side note I am proud to finally announce that my very own online store is ready for its official launch! Before I get into things too much I want to thank my good friend the Beer League Hero for the use of his design and the inspiration to start the store in the first place! I’ve added several of my own designs and used them to make a wide variety of items for all you great folks to purchase!

oil country beer league hereoes coat



bottle opener tee

These three items and many more are available now! We’ve got shirts, hoodies, jackets, coffee mugs, cell phone cases, beer mugs, shot glasses, hats and more. New items are being added all the time! Check out Cooke Designs if you want to see more or if you absolutely must have the bottle opener Beer League Heroes shirt. (pictured above) Yes it is a legit bottle opener! How cool is that! Take a look and come back next week when I will run the first contest of the season and give away some free swag!




Rob Cooke Written by:

I will come back to this when I can think of something interesting to say here.

  • Ben

    I think there’s no way Darnell doesn’t crack the opening night roster. I think he’ll step into the league as a top 4 dman for us and he brings exactly what we are lacking. Can’t wait !
    Sekera – klef
    Nurse – fayne
    Gryba – Schultz
    That’s a pretty respectable top 6 D in my opinion- and very soon defence will be a strength for the oil

    • Rob Cooke

      I like your idea but what then happens with Nikitin and his 4.5 million dollar cap hit? Expecting Nurse to immediately be ready for top four minutes in my opinion may be asking a little too much of him in his first pro season.

  • nesral

    I think that Nurse (and Reinhart) make the roster more based on space then on ability. I don’t see Chia burying Nikitan, but I could see him trading him by Christmas. Ference and Gryba are also a possibility. When he took over Boston he changed 3 defenders during the season. That is how the kids get their time, not based on merit, unless one of them will be the difference in wins they are screwed by the numbers game (just like prospects in every other respectable program around the league).

    • Rob Cooke

      What space do you speak of? There are seven defensemen coming to camp with NHL experience. That’s not including Griffin Reinhart or Brandon Davidson, both of who have played more NHL games than Darnell. He definitely isn’t making it because of space. If he makes the team out of camp, something I am very doubtful of, then he will have earned his spot. Nothing is going to be handed to Darnell like it was in past years.

  • Kyle

    Chiarelli made big strides this off season, but this is still a transition year – a year of waiting for contracts (Niki, Purcell, Scrivens) to fall off the books. The best move the team.can make is letting Nurse and Draisaitl start in the minors so they don’t achieve their bonuses. This will give cap flex at the deadline in the event we are in position to go hard at a playoff spot. Development in the AHL isn’t going to hurt anybody.

    • Rob Cooke

      Kyle, you are bang on in your assessment. At least in my opinion. Send them down to cancel out a few of the bonuses. Darnell and Leon both will be here before too long but I can’t see either player making the team opening night. Of course training camp could rapidly change that. There’s also the possibility of a trade still happening with a team that needs to be cap compliant before the start of the season but I am highly doubtful of that occurring. Thanks for reading.