Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse, the Future of the Oilers?

Before I dive into this article, let me preface it with this, because I know some readers will be up in arms. I’m aware that Connor McDavid isn’t a member of the Edmonton Oilers. There’s obviously always a chance they could trade that first overall pick (don’t worry they won’t); it’s possible they could choose a different player (not a chance); and of course there’s the perception that Connor doesn’t want to play in Edmonton. (He’s not a diva, he won’t balk the Oilers). But, considering how bad this team has been for the past nine years, and the kind of generational talent McDavid is expected to be, the only way Edmonton doesn’t call his name on draft day is if we’re living in a parallel universe. But fine, I guess it’s possible.

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, start by feasting your eyes on this goal that Connor McDavid scored last night against the Sault-Ste Marie Greyhounds.

Connor finished the night with two goals, leading his Erie Otters to a 4-2 victory and a 2-1 series lead. This OHL Western Conference final is a treat for all hockey fans, but it’s also of great interest for those of the Edmonton Oilers. Not only do they have the opportunity to watch the future star of their team* (*please refer to paragraph one), but they get to watch him go head to head against one of the Oilers best prospects in Darnell Nurse.

When the Oilers drafted Nurse seventh overall in 2013, it came with the hope that he could become that defensive pillar they so desperately needed. But he failed to make the team out of training camp two seasons in a row, causing some short-sighted hockey fans to believe he wouldn’t be as good as they thought. But Nurse has grown leaps and bounds since his draft year. He controls the play every time he’s on the ice, he’s strong on the puck and he plays a physical game. Nurse needed to time to refine his game in Junior, and sending him back there was the best decision the Oilers could have made.

Nurse will return to the Greyhounds in the OHL (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
(Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Nurse used to have the tendency to be out of position, whether it was trying to make a big hit (thus removing himself from the play), or trying an ill-advised pinch. He had a slight reputation of being a rover, but not in a good way. However over the past few seasons he’s learned to reel that in, and now when you say he’s all over the ice, it’s definitely a compliment. Nurse plays big minutes against the opponents top players, and he’s been shadowing McDavid throughout their playoff series so far. I really believe Nurse will make the Oilers this season. His development has earned him a good look in camp, and he’s become that imposing physical presence on the blueline that the Oilers could certainly use.

Nurse needed to learn how to make better decisions with and without the puck, and he looks like a different player now. His smooth-skating and ability to move the puck makes him a treat to watch. It might sound weird to say that Nurse has been able to contain McDavid, considering he already has nine points in three games, but Nurse has skated stride for stride with him.

Nurse and McDavid aren’t the only players that the Oilers fans and management are paying attention to, however. Over in the WHL, Leon Draisaitl has been enjoying a fabulous campaign for the Kelowna Rockets. The Oilers made the right decision sending the big centerman back to junior, and he’s thrived there since his return. In 32 regular season games, Draisaitl had 19 goals and 53 points, and currently sits fourth overall in WHL playoff scoring with 16 points in 11 postseason games. Leon has a good chance of making the Oilers next season, though he would likely be best served starting out on the wing (like Alex Galchenyuk did in Montreal).

It’s been a whirlwind week for the Oilers. Winning the draft lottery, bringing in Bob Nicholson and hiring Peter Chiarelli as their new General Manager. While I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I will say with cautious optimism that the future is looking bright in Edmonton.

For more news on the Oilers, read these articles:

Should the Oilers trade one of Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle? [Hockey Writers]

The hiring of Peter Chiarelli signals a new era in Edmonton. [Hockey Writers]

Is Todd MacLellan a good coaching candidate for the Oilers? [Hockey Writers]

No, Connor McDavid is not going to “pull a Lindros”. [Hockey Writers]