Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish attended the 2015 World Junior Championship and saw firsthand the impressive performance of one of his own prospects. Canada defenceman Darnell Nurse was named his team’s player of the game following the gold medal showdown with Russia.
Nurse, selected seventh overall by the Oilers in 2013, was on the ice for exactly zero even-strength goals against the entire tournament. He played aggressive, physical hockey and showed off impressive speed and ability to win puck battles. MacTavish says Nurse showed why he’ll be exactly what the Oilers need when he’s ready.
“Pretty hard not to be very excited about the prospects,” MacTavish said of Nurse. “When he’s ready to come in and provide that same type of performance level, he’s exactly what we need. A year changes a lot. You see it in (Coyotes 2013 first-round pick) Max Domi, who didn’t make the team last year and was the player of the tournament. You see the same for Darnell, who didn’t make the team last year but was arguably the best defenceman in the tournament.
MacTavish says the plan all along was to be patient with Nurse, affording him an opportunity to represent Canada at World Juniors and experience what he did this year.
“When we drafted Darnell, I felt like there was a couple of criteria we wanted met before he was ready to play here,” MacTavish said. “I wanted him to be over 200 pounds and I wanted him to have a World Junior experience, much like he just had. The criteria have been met, I think that his development is pretty exciting for all Oilers fans.”