The Oilers have two promising prospects coming up the pipeline next season who are that much closer to earning a roster spot. Darnell Nurse, who was taken seventh overall in 2013, is seen as the Oilers top defensive prospect. Leon Draisaitl is an offensively gifted centre, taken third overall in the 2014 draft.
Draisaitl, 19, played 37 games for the Oilers this season, recording nine points (2-7-9). He then finished the season with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL and lit up the score sheet. He had 53 points, including 19 goals and 34 assists, in 32 games for the Rockets. He has nine points (2-7-9) in six playoff games.
Nurse, 20, was named Canada’s player of the game in the gold medal round of the 2015 World Junior Championships. He was also named Sault Ste. Marie’s MVP, despite playing only 36 games for the Greyhounds. He recorded 33 points (10-23-33) and 58 penalty minutes in 36 games this season in the OHL.
Each will be given the opportunity to earn their spot in training camp, which is why Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish wouldn’t commit to sending them to the AHL right away for more seasoning.
“They wouldn’t want to hear that in a press conference, and what I’ve said about them for the last quite some time is that they’re going to determine their own level,” said MacTavish. “I don’t want to put a ceiling on them that they have to go to the American Hockey League. But they’re going to determine that, and there’s nothing wrong with going to the American Hockey League. It’s a great developmental league, a great developmental tool, it enhances development, it speeds up development in a lot of ways. The challenge for both Darnell and Leon will be to come in here and prove that they’re ready, because it takes an exceptional athlete to make that transition right into the NHL. We need players that think the game well and have experience so that will be on both Darnell, who has a lot of experience, and Leon, who is going to get a lot of experience here in this CHL playoffs and hopefully into the Memorial Cup.”