Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse aims for Team Canada spot

Darnell-Nurse-WJC

When the cuts were made to the 2013 Canadian world junior team, a howl went up in some corners when Darnell Nurse was left off the roster. The seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, Nurse had size, mobility and a growing offensive repertoire – all great traits for a best-on-best tournament. But the Canuck braintrust went a different way and though it’s unfair to claim in hindsight that Nurse would have contributed to a better constructed blueline, the Edmonton Oilers prospect is back in camp and on a mission to learn from the past.

“You have to be on all the time, whether it’s a practice or a game,” Nurse said. “It’s a real fun camp to be a part of. You’ve got 40 guys all competing.”

Nurse is at the 2014 camp now in Montreal, where he’s hoping to make a good impression on the Hockey Canada decision-makers and show off his best attributes.

“I’ve always had the ability to cover the ice with my skating,” he said. “My strength is knocking guys off the puck.”

At 6-foot-4 and 189 pounds, Nurse is a big blueliner with a nasty streak. I wondered last summer if that aggressiveness would hurt him in an international tournament where bodychecks often become penalties based on how loud the crowd cheers. To that end, it’s worth noting that Nurse saw his PIM total drop season over season and he said that a lot of his focus has gone into improving on the minor details on defense, such as staying between the dots in his zone and letting the play come to him.

To me, Nurse could be an excellent shutdown option with offensive upside at the tourney, much in the same way Russia’s Nikita Zadorov (Buffalo) took away half the defensive zone every time he was on the ice in Malmo.

After another successful campaign with the Ontario League’s Soo Greyhounds, Nurse even got a chance to see the pro game when he hooked up with Oklahoma City in the American League. He played seven games with the Barons, split between the regular season and the playoffs, where he gained even more confidence in his physical abilities.

While there is a possibility that Nurse sticks with Edmonton this fall and begins his NHL career, he would otherwise have to return to the OHL, since he doesn’t turn 20 until February. So the world juniors would be a great tournament for his development.

With Aaron Ekblad and possibly Josh Morrissey NHL-bound this fall, the Canadians would only have one returning D-man from the previous world juniors in Owen Sound’s Chris Bigras. Even then, the Colorado prospect was effectively the seventh man on the unit (thus absolving himself of any blame in what was a bit of a debacle).

One interesting aspect of this year’s candidates is how once again, the field is dominated by left-hand shots. Canada’s Olympic team was split right down the middle and had great success, but the world junior squad had just two righties in Ekblad and Matt Dumba. Assuming Ekblad is with the Florida Panthers, that leaves only Washington pick Madison Bowey and Kings prospect Roland McKeown available this time around. Of course, Nurse is willing to play his off-side if it means a red and white jersey come December.

“Last year I played both sides,” he said. “Even in the AHL. It’s nothing I’m not comfortable with.”

Now it’s time to start proving his worth, no matter which side of the ice he’s on. The Canadians play four games in a row this week in Quebec, with Russia and the Czech Republic providing the competition. That’s where Nurse can begin to lay the foundation for what he hopes is a berth on a national team that will be under a lot of pressure to win when the WJC medal round hits Toronto after New Year’s.

THN cover curse? Wayne Gretzky big hope for WHA, Racers; Gretzky traded to Oilers; Racers fold; Oilers move to NHL

Rory Boylen
Wayne Gretzky Indianapolis Racers

Sometimes covers don’t have the staying power they’re supposed to. Sometimes, in hindsight, they can look pretty hilarious.

Take our cover from Oct. 27, 1978 as an example. The cover image was a 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky skating for the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers with the headline “Gretzky Big Hope for WHA’s Future.” The previous summer, Gretzky had signed a seven-year personal services contract with Racers owner Nelson Skalbania and was about to set off on his first season of professional hockey. The inside story focused on the young Gretzky’s stand-out talent, compared him with basketball great Oscar Robertson and enthused about the bright future ahead.

Wayne Gretzky cover

Here’s part of the story: Read more

NHL logo rankings No. 17: Edmonton Oilers

Rory Boylen
Edmonton Oilers

By placing Edmonton at No. 17 on our list, that leaves the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 1 logo among the seven Canadian teams. Will the Habs logo rank first among all NHL logos? You’ll have to wait and find out.

When our panel of seven THN staffers debated and argued over the Oilers design, the room was split on where it should rank against other NHL logos. Some thought the look was outdated and ugly, fit for the bottom-third of the league – a place the Oilers have become accustomed to in recent years. But others – like myself – enjoyed the design and pushed for a higher ranking than this.

And that goes to show how much these rankings are determined by personal tastes more than scientifically breaking down the aesthetics of each one. To each his own. After our voting was done, the Oilers ended up in that mushy middle. I’ll be interested to see what the commenters below think of the Oilers logo.

Think you can design a better look for the Oilers? Here’s your chance. Create your best logo redesign for Edmonton and send it to us at editorial@thehockeynews.com and we’ll share our favorite reader redesigns at the conclusion of our 30 NHL logo rankings.

All logo from Chris Creamer’s website.

HISTORY OF THE OILERS LOGO

Did you know that, in their first year as a WHA team, the Oilers were called the Alberta Oilers? The Calgary (Broncos) team never got off the ground for the inaugural WHA season in 1972 and a provincial rivalry that was supposed to hatch that year never did. In response, the Oilers wanted to represent the province and intended to split their home games between Edmonton and Calgary. That plan never came to pass, though, as they stayed in Edmonton all season. After Year 1, the Oilers went back to calling themselves Edmonton as originally intended and, in 1975, the Calgary Cowboys joined the WHA after they relocated from Vancouver.

The Oilers look is a throwback in the modern day. Its font screams 1970s and the droopy, thick lettering adds to the character. It’s a look that also fits with the name. The original colors were a royal blue with an orange oil drop that really popped.

Edmonton Oilers

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At what point this summer do we change the “U” in UFA to unwanted?

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

For those NHL players who don’t step willingly into retirement, there eventually comes a day when UFA stands for unwanted free agent rather than unrestricted free agent.

As July ends and August begins, we’re now closer to the start of NHL training camps than we are the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. For unsigned UFAs, that’s an added layer of anxiety. What if nobody wants me and I’ve played my last NHL game?

Take a browse through capgeek.com and you’ll see half the NHL teams are already at the 23-man NHL roster limit. Another nine teams are at 22 players. And that doesn’t even include the several dozen or so non-roster rookie prospects who will surely make big-league rosters in October.

So not a lot of roster openings remain.

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Who’s going to win the turtle race for 30th – and gain a franchise player?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes

If Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin are the top three amigos for the 2015 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames are their top three suitors.

Yesterday, my esteemed boss Jason Kay wrote a blog wondering if the Sabres killed their chances of winning the McDavid sweepstakes by filling out their roster with established veterans Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrej Meszaros and Cody McCormick. No need to worry, the Sabres aren’t going anywhere other than 30th place.

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How Bobby Hull helped build the Oilers dynasty and how close Edmonton was to drafting Teemu Selanne

Jason Kay
draft day 1988

How much credit does Bobby Hull deserve for the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty of the 1980s? A fair bit, according to the Golden Jet, in this edition of Throwback Thursday.

In the July, 1988 edition of The Hockey News, Hull told Stan Fischler that Oilers’ GM Glen Sather got the idea for remaking his team when “myself, Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg terrorized his Oilers in the last years of the WHA. He’d get so frustrated watching us throw the puck around that he finally vowed to build a team on our (European-style) lines.”

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Tom Renney faces huge challenges at Hockey Canada

Tom Renney

When Bob Nicholson took over as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in 1998, few people outside the hockey industry knew who he was. Over the next 16 years, Nicholson went on to create a corporate monolith that generated millions of dollars in revenues and won countless gold medals on the international stage.

That will be an enormously difficult act to follow. That the board of Hockey Canada has reportedly handpicked Tom Renney to do it is, well, a little curious. Renney is a man of enormous integrity and has a coaching resume – particularly in the international game – that would rival that of anyone in the world. But this is the thing. Hockey Canada is not a hockey team. For the purposes of the president and CEO, Hockey Canada is far more a business than it is a hockey organization. Read more