(Editor's Note: Please welcome new contributor Jonathan Stout, who submitted this article. Jon is a senior at NC State, majoring in journalism and is a senior writer at The Technician. He will be joining our staff this season.)
In a draft class with coveted skill players like Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Aleksander Barkov, and top defensive prospect, Seth Jones, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse's potential cannot be overlooked.
Nurse is currently ranked as the No. 4 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, a five spot improvement from his midterm No.9 ranking.
As a top defenseman, and alternate captain for the Greyhounds, Nurse racked up 41 points, 12 goals and 29 assists in 68 games during the 2012-13 season.
Compared to Jones, who's a two-way defenseman, Nurse is categorized as "defensive-defenseman," taking care of his own end first. He's proved he can score goals but his physicality will be the aspect of his game coveted by NHL teams.
His 6-4, 185 lbs frame allows him to play a more physical game, and he doesn't hesitate to drop the gloves either, tallying 116 penalty minutes last season.
In addition to his skills on the ice, Nurse's bloodline is filled with athleticism. His father is a former wider receiver for the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His mother and two sisters all have played basketball on some level. Also, Nurse's uncle is former NFL star Donovan McNabb.
The Hamilton, Ontario native has drawn comparisons to Shea Weber, 6-4, 234 lbs, Dion Phaneuf, 6-3, 218 lbs and Chris Pronger, 6-6, 220 lbs.
Nurse was able to throw his weight around in the OHL, but in the NHL he'll have to add a few pounds to be affective at the next level.
A big, strong, responsible in his own end defenseman prospect is what the Carolina Hurricanes are in much need, especially after the departure of former 51st overall selection Brian Dumoulin, who was involved in last year's draft day deal to acquire Jordan Staal.
Defensemen Ryan Murphy, taken 12th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, listed at 5-11, 176, and Danny Biega, selected 67th overall in the 2010 draft, listed at 6-0, 200 lbs, are solid prospects who have both seen professional playing time in either the NHL or AHL. But, as much upside as both Murphy and Beiga possess, neither are viewed as a "shut down" defenseman—Nurse could fill that void.
For a team that struggled keeping the puck out of the its zone, and net, defense will be addressed this off-season but drafting a defenseman is no sure-fire decision. That we know of. Whether it comes via free agency, or trade, the Canes will improve on their lackluster defense from last year, but Nurse may be too promising to pass up.
Nurse's quickness and solid "hockey sense," along with a physical game could be just what the doctor ordered for the 'Canes.