The Edmonton Oilers announced Thursday they have signed 2013 first-round pick Darnell Nurse to a three-year, entry-level contract.
The seventh pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, Nurse had 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. The defenseman had four points in six OHL playoff games.
"It's a great feeling to know that I'm locked in somewhere and know where my future is for the next three or more years," Nurse told the Oilers website over the phone from Hamilton, Ontario, his hometown. "It's motivation to keep working and see where this year takes me."
Nurse was named the OHL's Scholastic Player of the Year. He comes from an athletic family -- his father played for Hamilton in the Canadian Football League and his mother played college basketball in Canada. In addition, his uncle is former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"It's a first-class organization," Nurse said of the Oilers. "For any player coming into the League or trying to make a team, it's the type of situation you want to be in, just based on the fact that you know all the management and players are pushing themselves to get better. And they give you every resource you need to reach your full potential. That's the type of development situation you want to be a part of."
Nurse is in Hamilton working out five to six days per week; he said his typical training day includes 90 minutes on the ice and 90 more in the gym. The 18-year-old said his focus is improving his abilities with the puck.
"I'm working hard to develop my all-round game," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done offensively for me, particularly my hands and my movement with the puck. That's the biggest thing for me. Everything I've been doing this summer has been with the puck on my stick. And I'm always working hard on my defensive positioning and being able to sustain that for the full 60 minutes of the game."
Nurse will attend Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Development Camp. The seven-day event runs Aug. 4-10 and is the first step in selecting Canada's roster for the 2014 World Junior Championship in Sweden.
He said he has not discussed if he will play for the Oilers or return to juniors next season.
"The biggest thing for me is to just prepare myself as well as I can in the gym and on the ice so I'm in the best shape of my life when September comes around," he said. "We'll see where that takes me. Your dream of playing in the NHL, but we all know how tough it is to play in that League as an 18-year-old. All I can do is push myself on a daily basis to get better."