Todd McLellan, the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, spoke well of Darnell Nurse in a recent interview. The 22-year old, who was selected seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, now has over 100 regular-season games of NHL experience to his credit. A defenseman, Nurse isn't known for scoring, and he averaged just 0.25 points per game last season. But McLellan, speaking on Saturday from Edmonton's training camp, made a lot of positive remarks about the player.

McLellan sees physical improvement

When asked about Nurse, McLellan reflected on him from a physical standpoint. "In my opinion," McLellan said, "he's gone from looking like a young man into a mature man physically." The topic of physical preparation for the NHL season is one that Nurse spoke to in his interview.

He claimed that he was working hard to have the "man strength" to battle along the boards in the NHL, one of the more arduous tasks facing a young player. McLellan also remarked that Nurse has scored well on testing scores and that he is "skating well." In concluding on Nurse, McLellan said that "the confidence to do things that you need to do...should be there" with the young defenseman. McLellan also described Nurse's growth as "continuous, " and overall the coach seemed impressed with the Oiler.

Nurse's stats from last season

While Nurse's scoring average won't turn any heads, it did mark an improvement over the previous season. In 69 games in 2015/16, he had just 10 points, so 11 points in 44 games from last season were significantly better. Hockey stats are complex as they can reflect on teammates, especially linemates, and when linemates improve an individual player's stats might improve in kind even if he's not playing much better.

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However, defenseman are often judged more on their plus/minus. From that point of view, a quantitative one, Nurse did show significant statistical improvement last year as he went from -13 to even on plus/minus when his two previous seasons are compared.

Fans that are not fans of stats as a source of insight will probably appreciate the qualitative assessment from the head coach more. But any way Nurse is looking like he might be ready to be a more significant role player in a team that is already highly touted. "I'm just ready to be a guy that can make an impact every single night," Nurse claimed from training camp. If he does emerge as a player that can be relied on for solid play, then the Oilers will look all the stronger. In fact with his league-entry contract still in play if Edmonton can get solid play out of Nurse it may open up financial options for them when it comes to late-season transactions.