WEEHAWKEN, N.J. - Wearing plaid black shorts, a white polo shirt with the “NHL Draft 2013” logo and white Polo sneaks, Darnell Nurse sat on a stool and answered questions during an outdoor news conference Friday at a North Jersey hotel that overlooked the Hudson River and the majestic New York City skyline.
Nurse was relaxed, funny and cordial, giving little hint that he is going to be a defenseman who will soon create havoc in NHL arenas with his rugged, gritty style of play.
“I’ve always compared Darnell to Shea Weber,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. “He’s got a little bit of a mix - he’s good at the skill game, good at the physical game. He’s got a good shot from the point.”
Nurse, the nephew of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, was one of seven top-rated players invited to attend Friday’s news conference.
The draft will be held Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Flyers would love to select the 6-foot-4, 198-pound Nurse with their 11th overall pick, but he isn’t expected to be there. General manager Paul Holmgren has explored moving up in the draft, presumably to get Nurse.
“When you watch him play - he’s still a lot of elbows and knees, but he’s a hard-nosed player,” Holmgren said earlier in the week. “He can fight. He’s pretty good with the puck, and he’ll continue to get better. I have no idea if he'll be there at our pick.”
Nurse, 18, who grew up outside of Toronto in Hamilton, Ontario, was politically correct when asked if he would like to play in the city where his uncle became famous.
“I’d like to play anywhere in the NHL,” he said.
Someone asked about how tough it was to play in demanding Philadelphia.
“It’s not an easy town, but Toronto’s not an easy town to play in, either,” he said. “I mean, when you get in those markets where fans really care, no matter how you play _ good or bad _ they’re going to let you know. It’s the type of atmosphere you want to be in, a town where everyone cares about their team.”
Nurse admitted he has envisioned where he may be drafted, “but at the same time, it doesn’t matter to me where I go…For me, it’s my job to get ready for whatever situation I’m put in.”
Most scouts think Nurse will need a year of seasoning before reaching the NHL.
Said Nurse: “You want to play as fast as possible. That’s anyone’s goal who goes through this process.”
“I’m 6-4 and just almost getting to 200 pounds now,” he added. “Mother Nature hasn’t really taken their toll yet on me, so it’s going to take some time.”
Nurse, the son of a former Canadian Football League wide receiver, said he wants to bulk up to at least 205 pounds this summer, but eventually wants to get to 220. His off-season will include lots of workouts and eating.
“My Mom always has the frig full, so it’ll come,” he said, smiling.
As a youngster, Nurse said he rooted for the New Jersey Devils and that Scott Stevens was his favorite player. Stevens is now an assistant for the Devils, who have the ninth overall pick.
More recently, Nurse has modeled his game after Weber and Chris Pronger. Pronger was regarded as the league’s most punishing defenseman before suffering a career-ending concussion while playing for the Flyers.
Nurse talked about Pronger in the present tense.
“He doesn’t lose battles,” Nurse said. “You watch him in a game and he has so much room just based of how hard he is to play against. That’s something I always take away from his game.”
As for Pronger’s edgy attitude, Nurse said, that’s “something you’ve got or you don’t have.”
Does he have it?
“Absolutely,” he shot back.
Contact Sam Carchidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.