Welcome to this week’s edition of the Oilers Panel.
This week the contributors discuss the possibility of 7th overall pick Darnell Nurse cracking the 2014-15 opening day roster, project who will be the best Oilers defense prospect long-term and what is in store for Todd Nelson?
No one can argue Darnell Nurse’s skill. Nurse has been arguably one of the best OHL defenseman this season with a 13-goal 50-point season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was unceremoniously cut from Canada’s world junior entry but has found his way onto the Oilers AHL-affiliate in the Oklahoma City Barons.
Nurse will get an extended look as Jordan Eberle did at the end of the season before making his debut with the Oilers in 2010-11. Can Nurse follow Eberle in those footsteps?
The Oilers are looking for some answers in their defense group. Over the rebuild the defense has been the weakest point up there with the goaltending struggles. Now that the goaltending seems to be solved in the short term with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth and possibly long-term with Laurent Brossoit, the attention turns to the defense.
Nurse joins a group that features some heavy names in college free-agent signing Justin Schultz and 19th overall pick Oscar Klefbom. Not to be outdone Martin Marincin has emerged as an Olympian for Slovakia in his rookie-season. The Oilers are hoping one or more of them can emerge as a legitimate top-pairing defenseman. But which will be the best of the group long-term?
Without further adieu…
Q: Can Darnell Nurse make the Oilers main roster next season?
Shane Sander: Yes, but I’m not sure he should. the captain of the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds can do everything and is the best all-around defense prospect in the organization and the closest thing the Oilers possess to a future top-pairing defenseman. He had 11 goals and 50 points this season and was a force on the powerplay until the Greyhounds were eliminated from the OHL playoffs. He has great mobility and plays a strong two-way game as seen in last seasons training camp. He’s joined OKC for the rest of the season for their playoff run and the next logical step is the NHL.
Marcy Dimichele: (see article) Yes, and with the departure of Anton Belov to the KHL, he probably will. He may not be fully ready, and he won’t really be insulated because the Oilers defence is not deep enough. But he’s probably their most prized prospect, and will be on the roster next year because of that fact.
Carl Maloney: Yes, although whether he is ready to will be a different story. He impressed last year in his first camp and there won’t be a ton of NHL competition for him this year. Only Andrew Ference, Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz are guaranteed spots as returning players, and fellow youngsters Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom have a good shot at starting in Edmonton. Barring a big addition or two that leaves Mark Fraser, Philipp Larsen and AHLers Brad Hunt and Taylor Fedun as Nurse’s main competition. To start the year with Schultz, Marincin, Klefbom and Nurse, all under the age of 24 in their top six is scary for any team let alone the Oilers, but based on talent available they may not have a choice. Nurse will eventually be a top shutdown defender for the Oilers, it just won’t be for a few years.
Katherine Hill: Yes. He was strong in the preseason, and had this year to really develop at the Junior level. He should get some valuable minutes playing for the OKC Barons in their playoff run, all of which will make him better prepared for playing for the Oilers next year.
— David Staples (@dstaples) April 28, 2014
Q: Of Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse who will be the best of the group when the Oilers are contending?
Shane Sander: Darnell Nurse. the captain of the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds is already jumped to the AHL in his first year in the Oilers organization after being drafted 7th overal in 2013. Yes, he was left off Team Canada at the WJC’s but that move was highly debated considering how Canada faired at the tournament. Nurse has the defensive awareness Schultz doesn’t and the offensive acumen missing in Klefbom and Marincin’s. Hopefully the Oilers land Aaron Ekblad giving them the legion of doom in an Ekblad-Nurse top pair.
Carl Maloney: (see article) Overall, it will be Darnell Nurse. He has all the tools, great size, skating ability and plays with an edge. His offensive game is also progressing nicely. He will be a top pairing, shutdown defender in Edmonton for a long time. I still believe Justin Schultz will progress into one of the NHL’s elite offensive defensemen, however he doesn’t have the well rounded game Nurse does.
Katherine Hill: Oscar Klefbom. He was fantastic in his first time with the team, learning on the fly. After a shaky first period in his NHL debut, I thought he settled in nicely to play strong hockey for Edmonton.
Marcy Dimichele: I like Klefbom to be a factor quicker, but Darnell Nurse probably has the highest ceiling. He just needs to be handled properly. Jumping to the NHL too quickly might be detrimental to his development. If the Oilers can bring him along slowly and allow him to learn the ins and outs of the pro game properly, then he can be an absolute stud. NHL teams have to be careful with their defensive prospects and hopefully the Oilers don’t mess this one up.
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) January 7, 2014
Q: Does Todd Nelson deserve a promotion?
Shane Sander: (see article) Yes. He was the internal candidate last year to be an associate to Ralph Krueger before the Oilers found their guy in Dallas Eakins. He’s had a 159-104-10 winning record in his 4-seasons coaching the Oilers AHL affiliate in OKC. You can’t blame Dallas Eakins for everything that went wrong at the helm of the ship but Nelson would be a great right-hand guy for Eakins as he’s worked with almost all the young players in the system and has done a great job developing not only the sure-fire prospects but the fringe players like Colin McDonald who turned into a 42-goal scorer under Nelson.
Carl Maloney: Yes. He has done an excellent job in building the program in OKC and deserves a chance behind the Oilers bench. He was disappointed not to get the job when Eakins was hired, but they could form a successful pair together in Edmonton. Nelson’s biggest strength is his communication and has already mentored many of the young players with the Oilers. It would be a smooth transition to continue that work in the NHL.
Katherine Hill: Yes. He has done great things with the OKC Barons and I think he should also get the chance to work in the NHL. He will also be great for bringing along the Oilers young players when they reach the NHL level. It will be tough to replace him in OKC, but he definitely deserves a promotion.
Marcy Dimichele: (see article) Yes, but it puts the Oilers in a tough position. Another rookie coach behind the bench is the last thing the team needs. Either they throw Nelson to the wolves by putting him in charge or risk losing him to another organization.
— Jonathan Willis (@JonathanWillis) April 8, 2014
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Edmonton Oilers regular contributor providing insight on all things Oilers including club history, prospect profiles, trade breakdowns, and everything else in between. Check back regularly for new and exciting content. Follow on Twitter @SanderTHW.