Should Darnell Nurse be on the Oilers this season?- Yesterday, I left a comment on one of Brody’s posts (Thoughts from last night) where I stated the following regarding Darnell Nurse:
I don’t think (Nurse) is on this team past possibly a few games to start the season. Not because he isn’t good enough, but because there is no need to rush him. However, if it means Grebeshkov doesn’t make the team, I’m all for it. That guy is a human grenade launcher.
To which Curtis replied:
I hate the whole: don’t rush them argument. These kids have been preparing for this for their whole lives. It’s different with forwards. They don’t get better playing smaller roles against better competition. It hurts their confidence and skill development. Not the case with d men.
It seems that Nurse’s great preseason performance against the Canucks has many fans buzzing and calling for him to be included in the 2013-14 edition of the Edmonton Oilers. Should he be?
Most of us know that defensemen generally take longer to develop than forwards. It isn’t a surprise to have a forward drafted in the top ten play in the NHL the following season. However, defensemen don’t typically make the jump the year after their draft. You may say, ‘hey, what about Doughty?’ While it is true he made the jump to the Kings immediately following his draft, he is the exception, rather than the rule.
The chart below shows a number of the top young defensemen in the game and a few high draft picks who are yet to emerge. The chart shows where they were drafted, the year they played their first North American professional game (AHL or NHL), and the year where they first played 50 or more games in the NHL.
As the chart illustrates, most of the players on this list played another year in a lower league before coming to the NHL and over half continued their development outside of the NHL for a number of seasons. Of the Norris Trophy winners on this list (Subban, Karlsson, Keith, and Chara), none of them made the immediate jump to full-time NHL work. Karlsson was the fastest playing only one more season in the Swedish Elite League before coming over, while both Subban and Keith waited three seasons.
Only the most rabid Oiler fan would think the Oilers have a shot at the Stanley Cup this season, so (in opposition to Curtis) it would be better to Nurse’s development to stay in junior for one more season (at least). One only need to look at Erik Gunbranson’s career path in Florida to see how rushing a young defender to the NHL can severely stunt development (4 assists and a -22 in 32 games last season). Curtis is right, confidence is everything. Having a 185lbs kid getting his lunch fed to him every night is no way to build confidence.
Should Oilers’ fans be excited about Nurse? Absolutely! However, even though he played extremely well in a preseason game against a watered down Vancouver lineup, people shouldn’t forget he looked very average just over a week earlier playing against fellow prospects in the rookie tournament. These are the ups and downs of a young player and the flags that draw attention to more development time being required.
Until next time,
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