TORONTO -- Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Darnell Nurse said he was just as surprised as everyone else when informed he would need surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his left ring finger at the end of the season.
Nurse said he was playing with his injured finger throughout most of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Following his team's six-game series loss to the Owen Sound Attack in the opening round, during which Nurse had one goal, four points and six penalty minutes, he was advised to have surgery performed, and did so in early April.
"I was playing in the playoffs with it and all of sudden the season was over and I couldn't play for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship because I needed surgery," Nurse told NHL.com. "It was disappointing because I wanted to keep playing hockey whether with the Greyhounds or the U-18's. But now I'm almost at the point where I'm at 100 percent, and I looked at it as better to get it done now before it gets any worse."
Nurse is joining 100 other 2013 NHL D\raft-eligible hopefuls from North America and Europe at this week's NHL Scouting Combine. Though he won't be participating in the fitness phase of the event as a result of the surgery, the 6-foot-3.5, 185-pound left-shot defenseman has plenty of team interviews with NHL scouts and general managers to keep him occupied through Thursday.
"The biggest thing for me is the fact this is the first time I'm meeting a majority of [NHL scouts and GM's], so it's first impressions and we know how big those are," he said. "I just want to show them the type of person I am, and give answers that are honest and genuine."
Nurse is ranked No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of the top North American skaters, and the second-best defender behind No. 1 Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks. Nurse produced career highs across the board in his second season with the Greyhounds: 12 goals, 29 assists, 41 points, a plus-15 rating and 116 penalty minutes.
"Recovering from an injury is a real test of patience," he said. "You don't want to push it too hard and no one is really letting me push it too hard. Anyone who is a competitor wants to get in the gym and work as hard as they can right away. But with an injury like this, you have to take your time. Even though the finger is a small part of the body, you don't want to suffer a setback and create even more damage.
"So while waiting until you're 100 percent is probably the hardest thing, it is the right thing."