The Edmonton Oilers made a needed investment on the blue line in drafting Darnell Nurse with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. The 18-year-old defenseman already stands at 6-3, 180-plus pounds and already poses a bruising presence near the net.
Edmonton finished ranked 19th in the NHL in goals against last season and 23rd the year before, and giving this area a youthful boost was a priority. Overall, talent evaluator Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus gave a Edmonton a middle-of-the-pack ranking of No. 15th in the league with this year’s draft class.
“Edmonton has a very strong group of young defensemen, between Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, and others,” wrote Pronman. “Toni Rajala took huge strides this year, and while they have a few intriguing options in the KHL, they still have no real top-end forwards in the system. The overall depth of this system is also a tad below average.”
Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin was on the Oilers’ board at pick No. 7, according to the Edmonton Journal, but Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish ended up opting for the defensive presence.
“He really gives us an element I feel we’re sorely lacking,” MacTavish said. “He’s the guy who will ride shotgun for a lot of first overall picks and our skilled players for a lot of years. … “The overall package was very difficult to pass up on and, as a manager making his first pick, I was really excited to be able to call his name.”