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FEATURE: Nurse looking to be a more explosive player

Defenceman Darnell Nurse looks to open the 2017-18 season a more explosive player for the Oilers

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

EDMONTON, AB - Darnell Nurse understands the weight of expectations - those placed on himself and those placed on the team.

Nurse wore the "C" in junior for Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League. He earned his place as a top-10 prospect, going seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. He battled his way onto the Oilers roster. Expectations have followed him every step along the way, and they follow him and his team now.

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"This is a big year," said Nurse. "First and foremost, this is a big year for the team. We have a lot of drive to get back to work and have a successful year on our part.

"The expectations are higher. We're worried about the start of the year here. When that puck drops and the season starts, we've got to get a jump. We're not going to be able to surprise anyone. People know we're a very capable team. With that said, we have to come out with that mindset start to finish. Every night we go out it's going to be a challenge."

On the personal side of things, Nurse sets his own high expectations.

"For myself, I'm just looking forward to taking the next step. This is my third year, and the training wheels for me are off."

In just the few days since returning to Edmonton, there is already a sense Nurse is ready for that aforementioned next step.

"In my opinion, he's gone from looking like a young man into a mature man, physically," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "His testing scores are off the chart. He's very strong, he looks very confident, is skating well, and once the game gets going, the confidence to do things you need to do in certain situations should be there this year. Where in the past, if you made a mistake it would take you a little longer to recover. I've seen continuous growth in his game and we expect that to happen again."

Nurse is coming off two straight years with the Oilers after a brief stint in the American Hockey League. With 115 regular season games and now 13 playoff contests under his belt, Nurse is ready to show he's an impactful NHL vet.

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"I'm just ready to go out there and work and earn everything."

Nurse says he has a set of personal goals in his head for the upcoming season, but keeps those internal - eager to see if he can "achieve what I truly believe I can."

With Andrej Sekera injured, young blueliners will have to step up and take on more minutes. Nurse, who logged 17:01 time on ice per game last season, is ready to show he deserves more.

"I feel like I'm definitely capable of it," he said. "It's just about going out there and showing and proving and earning that extra ice. I'm excited to get it going and going out to play and put all the talk in the background."

Nurse spent the summer working with his trainer Matt Nichol in Toronto. The goal? Become more explosive.

Already a big, strong defender, Nurse wants to bring even more on a nightly basis.

"Obviously, I've been capable of being strong in the corners but it's just upping that too and taking that to another level," said Nurse. "I want to be the kind of person who is tough to play against every night and bring that strength, speed and power every night."

"When we think of explosive, we think of skating, and the quickness from start to full speed but there is also the physical explosiveness; one on one in the corner, the ability to push the opponent around and to clear out the crease net-front," said McLellan. "There are a lot of ways of describing that. If all of those areas are covered by him, I think we'll have a really good player."

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