Canadian forward Sarah Nurse finds herself in the Top 10 of our Top 25 Under 25 ranking for the third consecutive year.
Beyond being part of one of the most prolific athletic families in North America, Nurse’s prowess has earned her a number of accolades. She is a collegiate standout from the University of Wisconsin, having racked up 137 points in 150 games and made the Frozen Four all four years. She tallied a goal for the silver medal-winning 2018 Canadian Olympic team, and notched eight points in seven games en route to a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships.
Nurse played her first season of professional hockey last year in the CWHL for the Toronto Furies, where she continued her strong offensive play. She finished a point-per-game player, registering 14 goals and 12 assists in 26 games, tying Natalie Spooner for the team lead in scoring.
Nurse skated in a bottom-six role during the Olympics in 2018, mostly used with fellow Wisconsin Badger Emily Clark and Laura Stacey, formerly of the Markham Thunder. That said, Nurse was the second-youngest skater on the Canadian roster, with only Clark as her junior.
On a generally younger World Championship roster, Nurse was given an expanded role and flourished as a result. She scored at least one point in five of Canada’s seven games, proving herself as a reliable weapon for the national team down the line. With veterans like Meghan Agosta, Rebecca Johnston and Marie-Philip Poulin on the wrong side of 30 by the time the 2022 Olympics roll around, it’s comforting that Canada has a dependable top-six option to plug in like Nurse.
Nurse has many attributes to her game. She’s got a powerful stride, a deceptive wrist shot and keen defensive instincts to provide pressure at the point and jam communication lines when needed. But perhaps her greatest weapon is her snarl.
In one-on-one situations, Nurse is lethal. She is strong enough to drive through a defender...
...quick enough to dance around them...
...and smart enough to use opponents as a screen.
Her aggressiveness makes her as pure a north-south hockey player as can be found in the game of hockey, and as a result, she often finds herself in a position to score.
Is the ranking too high or too low?
Nurse has dropped in our rankings by one spot in each of the two years since the origination of the list. It’s not so much that her play has gotten worse, it’s just that it’s so easy to take her for granted. Nurse plays a very straightforward, thoughtful game. She is patient with the puck, highly skilled protecting it and best utilized between the hashmarks and below.
With that said, she isn’t quite as much a spectacle-maker as the other forwards ahead of her.
Nurse will go underappreciated generally because of her simple but effective approach to the game. She never led the Badgers in scoring in a single season with Annie Pankowski being on her team. She finished behind established vets Brianne Jenner and Natalie Spooner in points at the 2019 World Championship. She simply has not lit up the scoreboard the same way other forwards do.
Fortunately for Nurse, she doesn’t have to produce statistically as much as those other forwards in order to be successful. She plays a completely different role and that is one of a rough-and-tumble, hard-nosed winger capable of beating any defender in a myriad of ways.
Is she properly evaluated on the list? Yes. But that doesn’t mean she won’t be one of the most important pieces for Hockey Canada going forward.