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NHL Draft Profile: Darnell Nurse

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Near the top of Darnell Nurse's list of attributes is an athletic pedigree.

His mother, Kathy, was basketball player and dad Richard was a wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Oh, and his uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, making for quite the lineage when it comes to performing on the field.

The standout defenseman for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds just completed his second season of junior hockey, both with the Greyhounds, and the 2012-13 season was his strongest to date. Nurse netted 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games played, leading the Soo defense in a season that was anything but ordinary: the Greyhounds fired coach Mike Stapleton on Dec. 3 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe, who brought a track record of success and experience with Hockey Canada with him to the club.

The Greyhounds qualified for the OHL playoffs for the first time in three years in 2012-13, and a large part of that was due to stability on defense that allowed for a strong puck possession style of hockey. Nurse is known as a solid skater with a high hockey IQ, and a guy that can shut down offense as well as make plays of his own.

He's a monster, too: Nurse checks in at 6-foot-5 and a shade under 200 lbs., giving him an NHL-type frame that he's only going to further grow into. Scouts have regularly compared his game to that of Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber, and those lofty comparisons are not without merit.

Nurse has excelled at both ends of the rink during his junior hockey career and does "the little things" with relative ease: taking away time and space, having an active stick and clogging passing lanes, and on the offensive side, getting pucks to the net with authority.

Clearly, there's a lot to like about Nurse and his well-rounded, mature game. He finished ranked ninth in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings for North American skaters but vaulted all the way to No. 4 in the year-end rankings, and many believe he's a lock for a top-10 pick in this year's draft.

Any team in the market for a sturdy, two-way defenseman should have Nurse at the top of its list.

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