Draft Offense? Nay, Preds should take Defender Darnell Nurse in the first round

After a season marred with underperforming offense, a franchise record losing streak and 8 shutouts and counting, it is clear that the Predators are struggling upfront. The organization would have to be banana’s to not draft some offense with their first round pick, especially after looking at the overly talented crop of players this year. Drouin, Mackinnon, and Nichushkin could all have challenged Yakupov for his first overall spot last year.

But even with that said, friends, I propose to you that we draft a defenseman with our 4th – 7th overall pick. Unfortunately, I think Seth Jones will be slightly out of reach, as he is likely to go 1st or 2nd. So, I present to you, for your consideration, Darnell Nurse, a 6’5, 192 pound Canadian boy who is currently playing with the Sault Ste-Marie Greyhounds in the OHL.

The trade deadline added a spectacular pick-up to the Predators already talented prospect pool. Fans were able to see the highly anticipated Filip Forsberg after his inspiring performance at the World Championships, where the 18 year old tallied 5 points in 6 games.

The team added Forsberg to their roster two days after signing Zach Buddish, of the University of Minnesota, to a two-year contact. He has 2 assists in his first 5 AHL games. Brendan Leipsic, of the WHL’s first place Portland Wintethawks, is tearing up the playoffs. Next to linemate Ty Rattie and blueliner, touted first overall pick, Seth Jones, the Preds prospect has 5 goals, 10 assists, and +8 in 10 playoff games.

And how can we not mention the NashWaukee Predators who are contributing excellently to the team in the late stages of this season. Taylor Beck has looked very good, while Watson and Mueller at least look NHL ready. Bang has been arguably a bit worse, but it’s easy to see that the potential is there.

Our defensive crop is a bit more lackluster. Ellis and Blum are … underperforming a bit for how highly they were drafted. Hal Gill only has a few years left. Weber is a beast while Klein and Josi hold their own. Bartley has been okay and Mueller doesn’t look too bad … but the defensive prospects in Milwaukee are few and far between.

The defensive prospects in Nashville’s pool are fewer and farther between(er?). In comparison to our offensive talent, they are much further behind. Garrett Noonan, with Boston University, had 19 points this year, which is still good for a defenseman, but 8 less than his NCAA-East leading 27 from the year before. Charles-Olivier Roussel is playing in the ECHL and, at 21 still has room for development.

So, with that background, I think the Preds need to draft a Defender this year. The fans might be livid … it’s hard to draft a D when your team has been so bad on the O. But we have offense in our pipeline. You have to go to our 6th pick, in the 4th round of the last draft to find our first Defensive pick (Vainonen, 118 ovr).  Since 2010 we have only drafted 6 defenseman in our 24 draft picks. Only 3 of them were in the first four rounds (out of 13 picks.

Nurse probably isn’t NHL ready. He will be 18 at the start of next season, which allows him another year, two if needed, in the OHL. But he is a big guy and is highly rated as a smart defender who is positionally sound. His big body is great for laying on the hits; which will probably stand out at training camp. Most mock drafts have Nurse going anywhere from 6th to 9th … just about where the Preds are drafting. If the Predators felt like they could steal him late, they could trade their first rounder for a slightly later first round and a bit more of a return. I discussed this a bit with @MusicCityVIc, but it would take a whole other post to delve into.

Hit me up on twitter @canadaspredsfan or in the comments to let me know how upset you would be if the Preds didn’t draft offense in the first round.