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Darnell's dream come true

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

- With the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers selected defenceman Darnell Nurse of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

"This doesn't feel real," he said, searching for words. "It's something you work for your entire life, but when it actually happens, it's unbelievable. This is the kind of organization you grow up dreaming to be a part of.

"I wish I could describe how excited I am. This is a dream come true.

"I had an idea that the Oilers were interested in me, but when you got the draft you never know what's going to happen. I'm so happy for my family right now. They've been in so much work to help me get to this point.

"That's the best part about it all."

Nurse didn't know a whole lot about the Oilers growing up in Ontario, but he certainly took note of their accomplishments and rich history when the club advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final back in 2006.

Sporting a wide smile and the team's iconic orange and blue colours, he could barely contain his excitement as he addressed the media at the Prudential Center.

"It doesn't get any better than playing in a Canadian market," Nurse said. "Being a Canadian kid, you grow up watching their games and I'm thrilled to be a part of it now.

"I'm not going to put any limitations on myself and say I can't (make the team) next year. But with that said, I've got a lot of work to do with my game to get to that point. I'm going to put in as much work as I can in the gym and come training camp, I'll be in the best shape of my life."

In 68 games last season, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound rearguard recorded 12 goals, 41 points and a +15 rating. Best known as one of the most physical and fearless defenders in the nation, Nurse came in ranked fourth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

"I've always had (an edge) to my game," he said. "That's what I'm known for and that's the game you see. Being as physical as I am, it helps create in all areas of the ice.

The Hamilton native isn't afraid to drop the mitts either. Earlier in the year at the CHL Top Prospects game, Nurse went toe-to-toe with Curtis Lazar of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. In total, the blue-chip blueliner fought six times over the course of the 2012-13 season.

"With the way I play, there's no question you get challenged a little more. I expect it."

With sporting excellent in his blood, there's no question he brings the poise, battle and compete of a seasoned pro. Darnell's father, Richard, was once a wide receiver with the CFL's Hamilton Tigercats. His uncle (by marriage) is former NFL great Donovan McNabb, who spent 13 seasons quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings.

A little more than a week ago, Nurse visited Edmonton for a series of meetings with General Manager Craig MacTavish and the rest of the Oilers brass.

Exuding qualities the Oilers so desperately need on the blue line, MacTavish left impressed: "I love that guy," he said.

"I felt good coming out of those meetings," Nurse said. "I showed them who I was as a person and all my answers were genuine. I didn't want to change my personality or manufacture anything.

"As a player, you want to be put in a situation where your best interests are in the team's best interests.

"It's a great spot to be in. What a night!"

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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