After 16 games, 21-year old defenceman Darnell Nurse is averaging just over 17 minutes of ice time per game, fifth among the seven defencemen who have played at least 100 minutes this season. He currently leads the Oilers in ice time on the penalty kill, where he’s been paired with Eric Gryba for the most part. He’s second among defencemen with four points, including a fantastic goal scored at the Heritage Classic in Winnipeg.
The Oilers appear to have learned their lesson from last season as they are not deploying Nurse against the other teams top lines and are managing his ice time well. He started the season on the third pair with Gryba, but has seen his ice time steadily increase, along with the level of competition, after Kris Russell was injured. The main reason for this is that Sekera, who was paired with Russell, is now skating with young Matt Benning who the team is carefully sheltering with less ice time and against the other teams secondary forwards. This has pushed Nurse and Gryba up to more of a second pairing, while Sekera and Benning are deployed as a third pairing (Source: Hockey Viz)
Over the course of the season, Nurse has shown signs of progress, especially on the offensive side of the game. He’s skating with the puck more, he’s jumping in on plays more frequently and he’s been quite effective at getting his shots on net. Below is each defencemen’s rate of individual unblocked shot attempts, with young Nurse leading the way at 5v5, just slightly ahead of Klefbom. (Source: Hockey Analysis)
Full article is at The Copper and Blue.