I was not and am still not convinced this was the right pick, not because I don't like Nurse but because I really wanted a center. Even at #7, I think I would have preferred Horvat, especially now that the Oilers have Perron. But I think your assessment of Nurse is not that accurate. In particular, I've seen a fair bit of Nurse and I do not see much in his game that reminds me of Phaneuf at all.
Nurse is, as dnicks says, an extremely good positional defenseman. Even after all theses years this is still a weakness of Phaneuf's. He is a kid who thinks defense first, even if he has added an offensive component to his game. And while every defender can get caught out of position he certainly does not run around looking for the big hit. Most of his nastiness happens in front of the net or along the wall.
As others have pointed out he is a very bright kid who was the scholastic player of the year in the OHL. Of course this does not mean he would automatically have a high hockey IQ, but despite what you suggest I think that the good news here is that in most peoples eye he does.
Realistically, the big question mark on this kid is: Does his offense translate? I am not sure how that translates to a player similar to Phaneuf.
Certainly many smaller lesser developed guys have played in the NHL, and certainly Nurse is talented and could play in the NHL this year but it would not be what's best for the Oilers or for Nurse. Same probably goes for next year although each player's progression is unique and should be treated on a case by case basis. He'll very likely develop better getting more minutes playing in all situations in the Soo. He doesn't need to be huge but as evidenced by his play at development camp he needs to add some weight to play his game at the pro level against bigger, stronger, faster players.
I agree with this for sure. Some suggest that Nurse is 3 years away becuase he simply can't weight enough until then, as if that is the only concern. If Nurse develops this year and puts on a bit of wieght I think he is high on the list of player that will debut in the NHL next year.