If the Calgary Flames are really looking for a player that personifies the words "size" and "grit" in this year's draft, then perhaps they needn't look any farther than Darnell Nurse.
The 6"5, 192 lbs. defenceman is just about as rugged a rearguard as they come, and with 12 goals and 41 points in 68 games for the Greyhounds this past season, Nurse's two-way game appears to be coming along nicely as well.
From International Scouting Services (via Stars Inside Edge):
"Not only is Nurse an excellent 1 on 1 defender but he adds an intense mean streak to put fear in the opposition. He shows no hesitation in doing what it takes to win from blocking shots to dropping the mitts, Darnell was born to lead. Offensively he brings an arsenal of weapons whether it’s using his vision to find his man up ice or jumping up into the rush he continues to develop in these areas. He shows excellent mobility on the point and has great quickness for his size which makes him very effective in PP situations. He has a heavy shot but could stand to use it more often. Has all the tools to be a franchise defender and captain down the road."
If you're Jay Feaster right now you're probably thinking, "Shot blocking? Fighting? Sign me up!"-- but get this, he's also a good, mobile skater and a good puck mover who can play a lot of minutes against quality competition. Nurse played on the top shutdown pairing for Team Canada at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
From Last Word on Sports:
...Nurse’s skating is elite given his size. He has excellent edgework, pivots, and agility. This allows him to transition quickly and cover all areas fo the ice. He can change direction very quickly, allowing him to close space in an instant, and throw big hits. He has good speed moving forward and backwards, and an above average first step and acceleration.
...Potential wise, Nurse’s development in the last year has been excellent, and if he continues at that same level, he can be a #1 defender at the NHL level, capable of playing all situations and being a team leader.
Nurse, who hails from Hamilton, Ontario, is already semi-famous on both sides of the border; his uncle Donovan McNabb was a quarterback in the NFL for 13 years and his father played in Canadian Football League. His parents forbade him from playing football because of the physical (and mental) toll the sport can take on a person's body.
But Nurse's penchant for fisticuffs caused him to miss out on the the NHL's draft combine because of tendon in his finger that he had to have surgically repaired at the end of the season. Does that make him a bit more of a risky pick for teams that could already be weary about drafting a defenceman in the first round? Possibly, but Nurse's well-rounded game, his much talked about intangibles and the potential that the 18-year-old will continue to get bigger and stronger still make him a very attractive pick, even for a team who might not think they're looking for a defender.
While drafting a defenceman with the sixth overall pick still probably wouldn't be my first choice for the Flames, there's no question that they could use a top-flight player like Nurse in their stable of defensive prospects, of which nobody other than TJ Brodie currently stands out as a sure bet. Acquiring a first pairing, shutdown calibre defenceman who is mobile and capable of producing some offence, whether through the draft, a trade or free agency, is just another item on the rebuilding Flames' long to-do list.