Donovan McNabb's nephew: Defenseman and top NHL draft prospect

Top NHL prospect Darnell Nurse, who is Donovan McNabb's nephew. Photo by James Egan Photography
Top NHL prospect Darnell Nurse, who is Donovan McNabb's nephew. Photo by James Egan Photography
Posted: May 21, 2013

If selected by the Flyers in next month's NHL draft, hulking defenseman Darnell Nurse would not feel an added burden playing in Philadelphia - and living up to the standard set in another sport by his famous uncle, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

"There is a link there, but I don't see how the pressure crosses over," Nurse, a mature 18-year-old, said the other day from his home in Hamilton, Ontario.

"It's a different sport, a different position. The pressure will be put on by myself to make a mark like he did. It won't come from other people."

READ: McNabb: 'Darnell is a really mature kid'

Nurse, a 6-foot-4, 195-pounder whose father's sister Raquel is married to McNabb, is expected to be chosen in the first dozen picks of the first round. The draft will be held June 30 in Newark, N.J., and the Flyers have the No. 11 overall selection, unless they make a trade for an earlier pick.

Nurse's family is athletic. McNabb was a six-time Pro Bowl selection. Nurse's father, Richard, was a wide receiver with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1990 to 1995. His aunt, Raquel, was a star point guard at Syracuse and his mother, Cathy, was also a standout college basketball player.

"Obviously, he has good bloodlines," said Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of hockey operations.

In NHL.com's recent mock draft, one of its three experts has the Flyers picking Nurse; the others have him going sixth to Calgary and seventh to Edmonton.

"He's a mobile defenseman who plays with an edge, and those guys are hard to find in today's game," Pryor said. "He plays an aggressive style."

Nurse, who said he studies video of injured Flyer Chris Pronger and Nashville's Shea Weber and tries to incorporate their style into his game, is known as a shutdown defenseman, but he improved his puck-moving skills this season while playing in his second year for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League.

In 68 games, Nurse had 12 goals, 29 assists, and a plus-15 rating; he also accumulated 116 penalty minutes.

"I don't know if he'll be a big offensive guy, but our scouts like the elements he brings," Pryor said. "He brings size, he moves well, and he will get bigger. He's a hard guy to play against."

Nurse had 41 points this season - 31 more than his previous year, when he was minus-15.

"The offensive part of my game came as I got more confidence and more experience . . . and more chances to carry the puck," said Nurse, who was a teammate of Sault Ste. Marie's Nick Cousins and Brandon Alderson, two forwards signed by the Flyers organization. "I've watched a lot of video and learned how to read plays, but there's still a lot of room for growth there."

Nurse called Philadelphia a "great hockey and sports market. They have real passionate fans, and to play anyplace like that would be special."

He and McNabb talk a few times a week.

"When he played, I used to go to Philadelphia for two or three games a year until I got busy with hockey," Nurse said. "I got to see all the work he put in. Our relationship is really tight. We talk all the time, and he's been a special person in my life. I go to him for advice whenever I need it."

Nurse said his uncle enjoyed his time in Philadelphia.

"Most of his memories are positive. He says it's a great city and a great sports town," Nurse said.

Pryor said Nurse is in the mix of players the Flyers would consider if he is available at No. 11. He calls it a "very deep" draft.

"We're excited about who could be there," Pryor said.

Pryor said the Flyers will select the best player in the first round, regardless of his position. But the Flyers have a glaring need for a future No. 1 defenseman, and Nurse might someday fill that void.

That is, if he is available.

MORE: Potential draft targets for the Flyers


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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